The Weight of it

I had my first awareness that I was heavier than my friends when I was in sixth grade.  We had a tire playground at my elementary school (literally, it was made out of tires) and I was following my friends through one of the structures and noticed I was struggling a bit to fit where they had navigated easily.  Judging from childhood pictures of Brian, he was overweight even earlier than me because there are chunky pics of him by about four years old.  By adulthood, both he and I tipped the scales at well over 200 pounds before we finally managed to lose and then maintain healthy (although not skinny) weights  long-term (he lost the weight before I met him, me after we met and partially inspired by his story).

Julia is five and a half and at her five year checkup she was in the 95% percentile for weight but also in the 75% percentile for height.  In other words, she’s not THE fat kid, but she’s not as skinny as most of her friends.  Other than a belly that sticks out (which to be fair, even many skinny kids have) Julia doesn’t look overweight when she stands by herself.  She’s got round cheeks and an adorable booty, but she doesn’t look heavy per se.  Put her next to her friends though – the gazelle-like Laney, the petite Kasey and Karma, the positively model-esque physique of Eva and suddenly Julia starts to look a bit…. bigger.

This causes a tremendous deal of parenting stress for me.  I don’t want her to be bullied for her weight, don’t want her to feel different, don’t want her to have low self-esteem.  Yes, I know she is only five, but I feel like if I screw her up in some way (because all parents screw up their kids somehow), this might be the one I end up causing.  So I worry, even though I don’t think I am doing nearly enough and likely doing ineffective or potentially even harmful things about it.  Here’s a short list of my crimes:

  • Using food as a reward.
  • Using food as a punishment (i.e. not giving her a cookie at the diner if she behaves badly).
  • Refusing to give her something else to eat if she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Giving in and giving other things to her when she won’t eat what we gave her.
  • Letting her eat meals that mostly involve her favorites of mac and cheese or cheese sandwiches instead of pushing harder for healthy options.
  • Insisting she be served a meal of healthy options that I am fairly certain she won’t actually eat.

How do you get a picky carb loving five year old to eat healthy?  We don’t let her have dessert regularly and we don’t keep juice in the house but we’re not tyrants. She gets ice cream on Wednesdays with Grandma & Papa and that cookie at the diner on Fridays.  She also gets chocolate milk once a week with school lunch and most weekends she gets to have one mini chocolate after lunch.   But she eats the same things for dinner most nights – mac and cheese, cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets, sometimes with a side of the rare fruit or vegetable she’ll eat. I don’t mind the nuggets (compared to the meals that are strictly carbs and cheese) because it’s one of the only meat things she’ll eat.  She seems to have a textural issue with meat although I’ve seen her eat the occasional cheeseburger.

In case you were wondering why she doesn’t eat what we eat – we aren’t there yet with dinner because she goes to bed so early.  I come home early on Diner Friday so we can eat together but that means that she also goes to bed late that night.  I suppose we could keep her up later Saturday and Sunday too, but an overtired picky eater is less than fun to eat with, so it hardly seems worth it.

So what does she eat? She’ll eat American cheese and occasionally mozzarella but no other cheese.  She’ll eat pancakes and waffles but not french toast.  Bananas, apples and grapes are ok but not strawberries, pineapple or blueberries.  Peppers are fine, and the occasional carrot, but no broccoli, peas or anything else green.  Any food she doesn’t like is “disgusting”.  She’ll occasionally try new things but often either gag on them or spit them out.  There will likely be crying.

We never ever talk to her about her weight or her body.  We talk about eating less carbs, more variety of foods, how important it is to try new things, but never ever in the frame of her size.  But I worry.  That she’ll keep getting bigger. That she’ll realize it.  That we’re the ones making her this way.   Despite being so picky, she’s obsessed with food.  She thinks about it all the time.  At parties where there are less healthy foods out like chips, she’d eat 100 if I didn’t stop her.  Am I making her this way by restricting what she eats?

Brian and I both passionately love food, could eat it to excess if we don’t keep ourselves in check. Neither of us, despite working hard at keeping ourselves in more reasonable shape, will ever be skinny.  I don’t think she’ll ever be skinny either, you can look at her wrists and see just from the size of her bones that she’ll be a bit more sturdy. But that doesn’t mean she is destined to be fat either.  I know the route to keeping her somewhere in between is to give her both healthy foods and a healthy attitude towards food even when the food is not healthy.  But I’m not sure I am able to deliver on that properly at this point based on my confused and complicated path with food and weight in my own past.

I’d love to hear from some of my fellow moms of their ideas and suggestions for how to address this?  Book suggestions are welcome as well, if you know of any good ones.  I know there are tips for picky eaters, but what about picky eaters that are also overweight?  Is she overweight? See, I’m in the dark here.  Many people tend to reach out to me via text, email or in person as opposed to writing comments on this blog (how come guys? I’ll look more popular if you comment on my blog!), so I will collect all the feedback across sources and share it with everyone in a future blog, as I assume I can’t be the only mom who deals with this.  Thanks in advance!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Showing up – the working parent dilemma

I know I haven’t written in a few weeks, and I apologize to the five of you who read this blog. Well, maybe slightly more than five people read it, but it’s not like I have thousands begging for my new content, so I figured I could get away with it.   The main reason I haven’t written is that I started a new job about a month ago and it’s been pretty busy.

I made a move from the agency side to the ad tech side in my field, which is social media.  This may sound like jargon to some of you, but the main point of me calling out this transition is that I just left a thousand person company that’s been in business 25+ years for an established but still relatively small startup that has just under 150 people and has been around for 7 years.  It was founded by college students, so the founders are also a good ten years younger than me.  This could have been a risk as a mom to go to a company that is small and young in both business and median age but so far it has been really great.

The company has a flexible working policy, which includes unlimited vacation days and no mandatory work hours, although a good amount of the people work on a schedule that fairly closely matches standard office hours. The policy is extremely helpful as a mom because to be part of a family with two working parents pretty much requires flexibility.  Although I am extremely busy so far every day and doing some work at night (which is pretty similar to my other jobs) I have been able to work from home already a few times. I’ve also managed to leave most days around 5:15, which means that I actually get home before Julia is asleep (she’s in bed already, but I get to chat with her for a few minutes, which is awesome).

This past Friday I worked from home so we could attend an event at Julia’s Kindergarten. It was an end of the year “Family Appreciation Day” held by her class.  It was adorable, the kids dressed up and performed a few songs and dances for us and I almost cried from cuteness.  But it was at 1:50 pm. It’s hard enough to go in to work late when there are events in the morning, But a 1:50 start time means that at best you’re getting a half day at work.  Let’s not forget that we work in the city and her school is in our home town in the suburbs.  I worked from home in the morning, but Brian had to take a 12:37 train to get back for it.

And this is just one of the events going on at the end of the year.  Thursday they had a field trip, which we didn’t volunteer for to be a chaperone, just like I didn’t volunteer for the last field trip a few weeks ago. Next week is a Flag Day performance (at 9:30 in the morning, which effectively means if I go I won’t be able to get to work until about noon with my commute if I go).  Then I just found out there is Field Day on the same day as Flag Day, if I wanted to go back to the school three hours later to watch that. And if I wanted to send my nanny in my place, too bad, because the school doesn’t allow siblings to attend so she wouldn’t be able to bring Luca. Then there’s the last day of school.  I figured unlike the first day of school, I wouldn’t stay home for it, until I found out that her kindergarten class parents have arranged for a pool party after school.  Unfortunately the last day of school pool party is the same week as Camp Orientation night which I am already leaving work early to attend, so I don’t think I can make both.

Then there’s first day of camp, which starts the Monday after school ends, and which I have to go to because our new nanny has never been there before and I want to make sure she has the process down.  And yes, I have a nanny.  And parents and in-laws who help out once a week each.  We’ve got something approximating a village working to raise our kids and we still can’t do it all.

How is a two parent working family supposed to manage all this?  I think this is a particularly challenging situation for families who commute longer distances like we do.  An event at school becomes not just the 30 or 60 minutes for the actual event, but then at least an hour and half past that – other than morning and evening rush hour, the trains around here only go into/from the city once every 30 minutes.  Then it’s a forty plus minute train ride (no expresses outside of rush hours) and then the subway trip to the office.  If I worked fifteen minutes away like some of the moms do, I’d only miss an hour or two at work at most.  But that’s assuming they have flexible schedules like I do, which is not entirely likely.  There are plenty of people who’d have to use up half or a whole of one of their few precious vacation days to attend these events.  And if they are one of the moms who only has an after school sitter and not a nanny like we do, that also means that the bulk of the rest of their vacation days are used for school breaks.

I know that traditionally women used to stay home, and that certainly there are plenty of stay at home moms still around. But it’s been at least 30-40 years that women have by and large been a major part of the work force, and I don’t understand how businesses (and schools) have not evolved to the needs of working parents (including dads).  There are certainly some great steps forward  – paternity leave policies that didn’t exist in the past, and more work from home flexibility for many workers because of computers and the internet.  But I feel like there is still a fundamentally flawed system yet not one that there feels like there’s an obvious answer to.

I can think of a few things that would help out on both sides.  Free wifi on commuter trains like the metro north where we live could help parents going into work late/leaving early score an extra 30-60 minutes of work while they commute.  More schools could have early drop off programs because if parents are regularly getting into work later than their counterparts, it doesn’t make it so easy to leave early.  Schools could offer affordable paid school vacation alternatives, like rec programs that would make it easier for parents to use days off for special events at school and not just because their kid has a winter break.  Businesses could offer a certain amount of “life event” days.  One of my former companies had these but they were limited to things like moving, bereavement or honeymoons.  Add in the option for 2-3 kid days a year would give a little relief.

I understand that I speak from a place of privilege, and that I have more resources and financials at my disposal than many parents.  So if it’s this hard for me, I can imagine how much harder it is for parents with less flexibility, less financial resources and less family around.   But regardless of the scale of who has it worse, the main point is this – we fundamentally need to figure out ways to make thing easier for working parents to be there for their kids.  Any ideas?

Today was a good day

I started this blog to talk about why parenting is hard.  But there are those rare days where the stars align and you have a very good parenting day.  This is the opposite of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (which incidentally is the title of one of my favorite children’s books).  Sometimes these magical unicorns of a day are because things are just so exciting – like when we had 5 very good days in a row while in Disney World.  But today, today was just a regular day.  No barking from the dog, no smog, and mama cooked breakfast with no hog (ok, ok, I’ll stop quoting Ice Cube now.  But come on, that song is SUCH A CLASSIC).

First of all, I slept until my alarm (aka my children) woke me up, instead of waking up early, which has been my MO recently due to anxiety.  And for that matter, I woke up not anxious.  Despite Julia coming down with a cold last night, she was in relatively good spirits this morning.  The kids snuggled in bed with us and watched TV without any clobbering or whining.  After breakfast and some actual relaxing, we all got ready for our respective errands without incident.  Julia didn’t fight about wearing weather appropriate clothing.  Luca didn’t poop four times in a row.  Brian and I didn’t argue about what recipes to make for dinner this week, making the supermarket list easy peasy.

It was pouring rain when Julia and I set out for our plans but it turns out that her arms are long enough now that she could hold the umbrella over my head while in her carseat so that I could buckle her in without getting soaked.  We did a few mundane tasks (dry cleaners, gas station) and then went to the mall to return some clothes.  I chose the far away mall because it had all the stores we needed, and she didn’t complain about the long car trip.  In turn, I didn’t get annoyed when asked to play the food game and agreed to play it all the way there (it’s a guessing game we made up where you give the first letter of a food and describe it – pretty basic stuff but gets boring after a while).

She brought her new fidget spinner in the car with her, but didn’t even try to convince me to let her bring it in the mall. She willingly carried her umbrella throughout the shopping trip which blew my mind.  I can never get her to carry anything not fun with her for more than two minutes.  Then of course she wanted to take off her jacket, because Julia runs extremely hot like her dad, as opposed to me, who is always cold.  I said that was no problem as long as she carried it, and SHE DID.  I honestly felt like I was in an alternate universe, but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  In fact, she behaved so lovely on the entire trip that I somehow agreed to spend a ridiculous amount on a new bathing suit for her at Justice (we had planned on getting her a suit, but I was hoping for a better cost).

Can we take a break for a second to talk about Justice? I know I’m digressing here, but I LOVE that store. I think I’m not supposed to, I’ve heard other moms talk about it with disdain for being too “trendy” or not age appropriate. But this paradise of tweens had a pillow of a rainbow poop emoji wearing a crown, tank tops with sequined unicorns on them and rhinestone headbands with cat ears.  It reminded me of Patricia Fields in NYC in the 90s.  We got this bathing suit, which has a picture of a cat in a seashell bra and says “I’m really a Purrmaid”.  It was overpriced, but to be fair, she goes swimming twice a day at camp so she does need a lot of bathing suits.

The day continued in a similar vein of simple pleasures.  Julia didn’t lose her mind over what to eat for lunch (mealtime indecision on her part is a real Cucinotta household issue).  Luca kept asking for high fives after he accomplished something.  At one point he said “Hi mommy, I love you”, which is a new and extremely adorable addition to his vocabulary.  Julia took a long nap, then we went and got manicures.  She behaved like an angel at the nail salon.  She told me on the way home I am her “best and only mommy” (hah).  Neither of us smudged our nails.  Dinner was decided on without arguing.  That’s two meals in a row of smooth sailing, which might be some kind of record.

Bedtime went off without a hitch.  Luca insisted on bringing everybody’s shoes upstairs.  He wanted me to sing him “Happy Birthday Julia”.   We read a book about different kinds of trucks and I got lots of kisses and snuggles in before putting him down.  My heart swelled with love as I laid him in the crib.  When I brought Julia upstairs for her bedtime, she offered to let me pick her pajamas and then actually agreed to wear the pair I picked!  There were no negotiations/arguments about picking two books of the appropriate length and she didn’t interrupt me every page with questions.  My heart swelled yet again with love as I kissed her goodnight.

I share all of this with you not to outright brag, or humblebrag.  This day is worth sharing because Mom tip: it is a reminder that there a good days, and every one of those good days should be celebrated and put into the bank of good feelings you can draw on during a tough day.

I should note that I am writing this the night before Mother’s Day.  While I historically have been an optimistic person, the last nine months of my life have been infused with quite a bit of pessimism.  So my knee jerk reaction is to assume that there’s no chance I’ll have an entire weekend streak kid behavior wise and therefore my Mother’s Day might not live up today.  But that’s ok.  Because today I didn’t even have to use my AK, I got to say it was a good day (sorry… I promised I wouldn’t quote Ice Cube again, but god damn him that song is catchy).

 

 

Self(ish)

I love having this blog as an outlet for my thoughts.  I am so glad that my friends and even some strangers are reading it, and that maybe my posts are connecting with them. But today I’m grateful for the fact that I am not a famous blogger, because I want to write about something that I know I’ll be judged for.

Now here’s the thing – my co-blogger Cristina and I started this blog to acknowledge that parenting is hard and we don’t always love it.  Part of that means admitting things that might not be so flattering to us.  But so far, our readers are mostly limited to people who know us, or know someone who does.  As far as those few strangers, my guess is that they are reading because they need to hear this kind of honesty.  My point is that we haven’t gotten any hate comments yet, much to my relief.

If you read any major blog, parenting related or no, there are always the trolls.  People who will write things, heinous things, that they would never ever say to a person’s face.  On the mom blogs, mom shamers come out in force.  And pretty much every mom’s secret fear is that they are shitty moms.  The amount of mom guilt that abounds in our culture is astounding and nobody needs that shit validated, even if the validater (I don’t think that’s a word) is probably a far shittier human being than you.  That’s the point of this blog.  To say hey, I’m afraid sometimes I’m a shitty mom, but you know what? Maybe you’re like me too, and if a lot of us feel like this, maybe it cancels out the shittiness and it turns out this is just the reality of how parenting is today for a lot of people.

Which brings me to my shitty mom admission.  I recently got a new job, which I start Monday (yay).  That’s not the shitty part. The job is awesome and exciting and different and I’m stoked.  My True Mom Confession is that I managed to work it out so that I had two weeks of time off in between jobs … and I didn’t give my nanny a single full day off.

This is not to say I didn’t spend any additional time with my children those two weeks.  I put them to bed every night, something I NEVER get to do when I’m working.  I spent parts of various days with them.  I stopped by Julia’s dance class to check in with the owner on how she was doing.  I arranged multiple playdates and I attended a few. I had some meals with them.

But I also did a lot of stuff for me.  I went to see not one, but two movies in the theater.  I went on a shopping spree….ok, I went on multiple shopping trips (although to be fair, I was shopping for a dress for my niece’s batmitzvah, full spring/summer wardrobes for the kids, summer clothes for my husband and getting clothes for my new job).  I had networking breakfasts in the city and lunches with friends in the ‘burbs.  I took a nap one day.  I read a few books.  I had a couple of manicures and a pedicure.  I got a chair massage.

These are not extraordinary things, but as a working mom of small children, these are luxuries.  These are things that maybe you could do one per month if you’re lucky.  And even if you get to do one, maybe you have to take the abridged version – like on a weekend when I can convince Julia to get a manicure with me. Its fun and cute, but also means I have to bring her snacks and activities, I’m not complaining about that because even that feels like a luxury – getting girl time with my daughter, relaxing, etc.  But my point is that this was truly an extended period of indulging what I wanted to do.  Putting Lisa first.

I’ve always believed that I am capable of being a good mom because I prioritize myself when I am able, but even I wonder, did I take it too far? Couldn’t I have shuttled Julia to gymnastics and sat with Luca in the waiting room?  Or maybe let the nanny go home early every day? And more so, is there something wrong with me that it isn’t what I wanted to do?

I find that piece the most confusing to me in terms of trying to understand my role as a mother.  As a mom, am I supposed to look at a two week vacation and think, I am so excited to spend all the time I can with my kids? Because I don’t, even though I don’t normally get to spend a lot of time with them. When we went to Disney I was super excited to be with them every minute, but that was because we were all doing something wonderful as a family and they were super adorable and well behaved the whole time. But real life in the role of a stay at home mom, even for two weeks, it just doesn’t…. it doesn’t do it for me.  I think you can guess now why I would worry about judgment for this post.  What I’m admitting here is that while I really love and truly adore my children, I don’t want to be with them all the time.

There, I said it.  Let the judging begin.

You take the good, you take the bad….

InstakidsYesterday I posted this photo to Instagram (and syndicated it to Facebook).  It’s one of the first times that Julia has ever held Luca’s hand in public, and it was so cute that I could barely handle it.  My heart filled with joy as a mom, and I wanted to share it with my friends. Within a day of posting it had 50 likes on Facebook and 22 on Instagram.

I crystallized a beautiful and real moment and wanted to share it with my friends.  But that’s the thing about social media – it showcases just a moment. As any parent can tell you, this parenting thing is a twenty four hour grind made up of a multitude of moments, only a few of which are this good each day.  It’s the exact reason you cling to them, the exact reason you want to share them, but it can also create a false sense of what your life is like to those who see your feed.

In the post,  I included my #truthinparenting hashtag, which is how this blog got it’s name.  I started sharing my struggles with parenthood on social using this hashtag a few years ago, and it was those stories that drew other moms to my honesty and eventually convinced me to start blogging to spread the message further.  But I committed to myself a few years ago that I should use the hashtag for good stuff too.  If you lose sight of the good, there is no life boat to cling to on a bad mom day.

So I posted that picture yesterday because it was almost oppressively cute.  But later, I felt guilty (and yes, we should definitely talk to about mom guilt sometime soon).  I felt guilty because of all the things the picture doesn’t say.  This was taken at the spring festival thrown by our school district.  Julia and I went alone last year but I wanted Luca and Brian to join in on the fun this time.  But it wasn’t turning out so fun by the time this pic was taken.  First, Brian and I argued about the parking spot, which was technically not a legit space on the school grounds but which I was 98% confident they wouldn’t ticket us for (for the record, they didn’t).  Julia started crying in the car when it looked like Brian might need to circle the huge lot again to find something legal.  Then once I convinced him and we hopped out, it was raining and I couldn’t get Luca’s stroller to fully open.  The family, cranky and impatient, implored me to leave the stroller in the car.  Which meant that I ended up carrying not just my purse, but also a diaper bag, craft projects, balloon animals and everyone’s jackets, instead of stashing all that in the stroller.  It also meant that instead of Luca just chillin’, he was running around like a tiny wild bronco which took a lot more energy from both of us to reign him in.

I should also mention that returning to the car two hours later, we discovered that the stroller hadn’t been pushed far enough into the back of the SUV when I hastily returned it. So the remote close for the trunk had sprung back up without us knowing and had been open the entire time we’d been at the fair. Thankfully the rain hadn’t soaked the interior and no one had stolen anything from our car or the car itself, so I’ll take that one as a win.  Also, Brian did not lose his will to live immediately upon seeing this, which I will also take as a huge win. As someone who grew up in a rough-ish (at the time) part of a Brooklyn, it took him several years in the suburbs before he stopped using the club on our steering wheel and folding in the side view mirrors.

I’m sharing this with you guys not because it was extraordinarily terrible, or cancels out the bliss I felt seeing my little peanuts rocking the sibling love, but I felt it was important to keep it real with you.  Mom tip: Just remember what you see on social isn’t ever the full story, but it’s still OK to share the moments that keep you sane.

Facing the (ec)topic

A little before Julia turned two I finally got comfortable with the idea of having a second child.  Although having two kids had always been my plan, the PPD and general difficulties adjusting to parenthood had left me with a big question mark on the topic.  Finally I crossed the bridge from fear into acceptance and was ready to try.  I think it had something to do with Julia being slightly more independent – she was walking, talking, understanding the things we were saying, and I was starting to have more fun.   Ready to take the leap, I stopped birth control. With Julia, it took me around a year from when I stopped taking birth control pills to get pregnant, so I wasn’t expecting anything quickly with my second.

A few months after we started trying, I passed out on the subway.  Brian was with me and managed to drag me off the train at the next stop and onto the platform before I collapsed into his arms.  It happened suddenly and dramatically, but after stopping into a cafe and drinking some apple juice, I felt much better and I even went to work that day. I thought I might have had something called vasovagal syncopy , a fainting episode that can happen for a variety of reasons including low blood sugar and is relatively harmless. I chose not to worry about it too much and didn’t got to the doctor.

Then the next week, it happened again, also on the subway (weird, right?).  This time I was alone and felt the same sensation that I was going to lose consciousness. I leaned forward to brace myself and ended up smashing my head into the pole in front of me, which happened to have the benefit of propping me up.  Someone quickly gave me their seat and after I put my head between my legs for a minute or two I felt fine.  But two times in a week seemed odd, so I made an appointment with my primary care physician for a quick check in.  She asked some questions, ran blood work and didn’t find anything out of the norm, so she told me to let her know if it happened again.

That weekend Brian and I were scheduled to go on our first solo trip since Julia was born.  It was just two nights in Philadelphia in October, not exactly a tropical vacation, but we had lined up a bunch of fun stuff to do, including the Mutter Museum, which I’ve always wanted to visit.  It’s a museum of medical oddities, something I am really into (don’t even get me started on conjoined twins). I remember one display there was of a fetus at every week of development during the first trimester.  This was not the most unusual thing (they had giant tumors, casts of medical anomalies and an enormous collection of skulls) but the tiny little fetuses stuck with me as a mom.

Within a day of being in Philly I got terrible heartburn and stomach pains.  We had to stop at a drugstore to pick up Tums and Zantac to try and alleviate my symptoms.  I have celiac disease and although I am vigilant about not eating gluten, I occasionally get cross contaminated or accidentally ingest traces which can lead to symptoms like this.  Not fun, but not worth cancelling a trip over. While we didn’t get much romantic time, we still went sight seeing, ate some great food and generally enjoyed being childless people for a few days.

The day after we returned I was due to get my period but I didn’t.  I thought maybe the heartburn and weird stomach aches while we were away could be early onset symptoms of pregnancy so I took a test which confirmed I was indeed expecting. This was pretty crazy news to process, as we hadn’t been trying for long and I was taking a really exciting work trip the next day.

I would be flying to San Francisco to go to a Facebook conference at their headquarters.  I would also get to drop in on the Twitter headquarters  and it was to be my first trip at both.  I was seriously jazzed about going, in particular because my company sending me was an indication of how seriously they were taking my role in growing our social practice.   The morning of the trip my stomach felt worse than it had before, and more than that, it felt weird.  I’ve had a lot of medical problems in my life, but this was a feeling I hadn’t experienced, both dull and sharp at the same time and in multiple locations.  But I just felt couldn’t very well pass up this super exciting opportunity.

I met up with my coworkers at the airport but we were all split up on the plane.  During the flight, I passed out four times.  I didn’t even know you could lose consciousness when you are sitting down, but apparently you can, because I did.  I’d get this wave really fast of knowing it would be about to happen, my head would drop, and then I would come to a few seconds later, feeling tingly and sweaty.  One of my co-workers stopped by my seat to say hi mid-flight, and I told him what happened, but played it off as if it was a weird, lighthearted thing and not at all a concerning development.  When we got off the plane, I didn’t even mention it to the other two.  I was traveling with all men, and in retrospect I think this affected a lot the way I handled the situation.  I didn’t want to show any signs of weakness, especially since they were all in more senior roles at the company than me.

I struggled to act normal on the way to the hotel  and immediately called Brian crying from my room.  “Something’s wrong, and I’m scared”.  I remember trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to go to the doctor, because then I might miss the dinner scheduled with our Facebook team (um, seriously?).  He insisted I go to the doctor, pointing out that being pregnant made it literally twice as important.

As luck would have it, there was an urgent care literally next door.  When I stopped at the concierge to get walking directions there, I must have looked like a hot mess because the hotel insisted on sending someone to walk me there.  I shot a super casual email to my co-workers. “Hey, I’m going to run over to the urgent care as I have a minor medical issue I just need to check out before dinner!”

At the urgent care, my pain was intensifying.  I thought maybe I had an ulcer, or the world’s worst case of heartburn.  Once I got into the exam room and the nurse realized I was pregnant and checked out my current state and symptoms, she looked at me like I was crazy. She refused to let the doctor see me and insisted I go to the hospital and called me a cab. I really thought she was overreacting (denial is not just a river in Egypt, folks). I called Brian with an update from the cab, and he was getting more worried, but I still figured it would turn out to be something minor.  I am the master of random but not serious medical maladies.

At the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to get out of a wheelchair because I was a “falling risk” due to the fainting.  They took some blood, and while waiting for the results, the decision was made that I needed an ultrasound. They had to give me IV saline to pump me up with enough fluid to take a look which is rough because I am someone that has to pee ALL THE TIME. The IV saline was killing my bladder, plus the pain was making the need to go to the bathroom worse somehow.  I begged them to let me pee, but was told that doing so would likely extend the time until the ultrasound because they’d have to fill me back up.  I held off as long as I could but eventually I just had to go.

Not too long after I peed, an ultrasound tech came over to get me.  I told her that I wasn’t sure if I was ready because I had just peed and she made it clear that they had to do the ultrasound NOW.  Nobody said anything during the exam but they spent more time on one side than another.   I wondered if maybe my appendix had burst or maybe I had a kidney stone.  Quickly after the exam I was brought into a private room and given the news.  I was in a more advanced state of pregnancy than I thought.  I wasn’t just a day or two passed a missed period, apparently I had been pregnant as of the previous month, but because I got a light period and my temps had gone back down I never tested.  But here was the triple whammy: I was eight weeks pregnant, the pregnancy was ectopic and it had ruptured.  I was bleeding internally and likely had been for a few days.  They were amazed that I wasn’t septic already.  They said I required surgery to remove the fetus.

This is how you’ll know I was in shock: My first thought was that I was going to miss the Facebook conference.  Next, I asked them if I could wait until I got home to have the surgery.  As in, fly back across the country.  The doctor looked at me like I had two heads.  “We have to do the surgery RIGHT NOW.  Immediately.  You are lucky that you came in when you did or you could have died.”  I had to call my husband and tell him that we were losing the pregnancy and that I would be having emergency surgery while he was across the country.  There was crying on both sides.  He assured me he’d find a way to get the first flight out there.

Here’s the third piece of proof I was in shock: My Facebook rep and my boss’s boss stopped by to check on me in the hospital on the way to dinner (I had sent them a follow up to my earlier email informing them that I was in the hospital and might be late to dinner) and I decided they should take a picture of me in my hospital gown giving the thumb’s up sign to post on Facebook in order to be meta.

lisa hospital

Let’s examine some layers here.  1) I posted a hospital photo of myself to Facebook.  2) I was giving a thumbs up.  3) I neglected to remember that despite my parents being on vacation in Australia, it was the modern era, which meant that they had internet sporadically and therefore the ability to check Facebook (they hadn’t been notified of my condition like the rest of my family had because we didn’t want to worry them on vacation)  4) I was losing my baby.  To my credit, if there is anything redeeming about this action at all, it’s that I didn’t actually tell Facebook that I was pregnant.  I just said I was bleeding internally and needed surgery. But still, but still, but still.  Have I ever mentioned I’m an oversharer?  Also, as it turns out, even though I am an obsessive thinker and can spend hours turning over a conversation or decision in mind, I literally turned my brain into a blank slate of denial and repression to deal with this situation.

My husband arrived the next morning after the surgery was over.  The surgery went well; they had to remove one of my Fallopian tubes because the damage was too severe, but otherwise everything went smoothly.  I was able to fly home the day after that, on the original flight I had planned to take home.  Amazingly, the seat next to me on the plane was free and we were able to book it without having to deal with it at the airport.  I cried some on the plane when Maxwell’s cover of Kate Bush’s song “A Woman’s Work” popped up on my playlist (it’s a song that was written for the movie “She’s having a Baby” about the scariness of childbirth) until my husband made me stop listening to moody music. Then I mostly slept.

My company was kind and generous in paying for expenses as well as offering as much time off as I needed, but I went back to work quickly from home, because I couldn’t bear to be alone with my thoughts.  Surprisingly, I didn’t mourn the loss of the pregnancy much.  I had only known I was pregnant for 2 days when it happened, and hadn’t begun to attach myself to the idea of a baby in my mind.  In addition, because I knew it was not viable, it helped me feel that it could never have been my baby.  Mom tip: Just because I didn’t struggle much with the loss doesn’t mean that is the experience of other moms who have gone through something similar, or any other kind of pregnancy loss.  It hits every woman differently and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

But a few months after the ectopic, during the time it began to sink in that I might not be able to have a baby, I struggled pretty hard with something similar to PTSD.  It was as if the realization that I almost died just smacked me in the face one day, and I became terrified.  I withdrew emotionally, I cried a lot, I had way more anxiety than usual.  Everything I had closed in my brain just opened up and started spilling out.  This seems to be a bit of a pattern for me – I handled my postpartum depression the same way, not actually recognizing it until after it had been going on for too long.  One thing that helped was my doctor explaining to me that having one tube doesn’t reduce your chances of pregnancy by half, as women don’t consistently ovulate.  Some women might only ovulate from one tube, some might alternate every month, and some can ovulate on one side for three months and then switch.  He said I should trust my body to do it’s job and that I was still young enough to have a good chance of a happy outcome.

luca bearMy story has a happy ending, as you likely know if you’ve read my blog and remember that I have two kids.  Despite having only one Fallopian tube left to work with, after getting permission to try again after three months, I was able to get pregnant within a year, and that’s our delicious Luca.  And every year I make a donation to the Stanford Hospital in California as a reminder of what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.  It’s because of them that I’m alive and I have my boy.

A moment of levity

All of my blog posts so far have been a bit on the intense side, so today I bring you a moment of levity.

Nanny dynamics are interesting, to say the least.   I have TONS of very dramatic, intense stories about nannies that I will share in the future when I am ready.  But recently I had a very comical, yet serious exchange with my current nanny, who has only been with us a short time.

“I need to show you something” she said to me, her face concerned.  Cue instant panic. I did not like the sound of this.  It’s like a boyfriend that says “We need to talk” or a doctor who says “We found something”.  It’s not going to be that she found a thousand dollars in the closet or that my daughter is able to recite the declaration of independence by heart at five years old.  I tried to stay calm.  The best I could hope for was that maybe she had broken something  that was not expensive and/or we didn’t care about.

“I found it on Friday, but I wanted to wait until I could show it to you, because, well, here it is.”  She went to a shelf and picked up a small plastic packet.  Inside were a number of smaller plastic baggies, each filled with a white, powdery substance.  I immediately knew what they were, but from the look on my poor nanny’s face, I realized what she thought they were.

I started to laugh, which might not have been the best move.  She looked at me wide eyed as I started to explain.  No friends, we didn’t have baggies of cocaine hanging out in the kids playroom.  That’s the good news. The other good news is that while I knew what the baggies were, I’m not quite sure what they are made from, so it was still best to get them into a safer place (ie. away from toddler hands).  I realized with a bit of paranoia that there is still a chance she might not believe me.  I tried to stay calm because while I knew I was telling the truth, my keeping her as my nanny really depended on whether she believed me.

These mysterious baggies are actually part of a fairly complicated art project Julia received for her birthday called Aqua Illusions.  You fill a tray with water that you mix with this white powder.  It creates a gel base that you can then squirt and drag paint over to create a design.  You then make a print of the design by placing a piece of paper flat onto the water and pulling it out carefully with plastic tongs.  It’s quite the commitment for a five year old, but we tried it a few weeks ago with one of her friends. It came with extra bags of powder, and when we put the project away that day bags must have fallen out of the box.

But imagine if you found tiny baggies filled with white powder in someone’s house.  Wouldn’t you assume it was drugs?  That poor woman must have been worried that not only were my husband and I cocaine users or even worse, drug dealers, that we had left the cocaine out in our children’s playroom.

The nanny relationship is one that is based on trust from both sides – and that can be really hard for both parties.  You need to feel a strong level of trust in the person who is taking care of your kids every day, and they need to trust that you’ll give them a stable and secure environment to work in.  Considering we’ve only had her as our nanny for a few months, I’m glad she at least asked me instead of quitting on the spot or reporting us to child services!   So, while I have plenty of CRAZY stories to share with you in the future about the complexities of childcare, at least this one ended in a laugh.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons why I let my kids watch TV

There’s a lot of discussion among moms on screen time.  Countless blogs, articles, research studies and playground talk focuses on the evils of too much TV for kids (and of course now tablets, laptops and cell phones enter the equation too as additional screens).  But I for one don’t buy it when it comes to TV.  I think it’s all about the who/what/where/when/how of the experience.

See, we’re die hard TV lovers in our house.  We have a high capacity multi-room DVR.  The TV in our living room feels like a small theater.  We designed our bedroom closet system to leave room for a wall mounted TV between the closet doors.  We watched a ton of TV before our kids were born, and when we decided to put a built in wall-to-wall cabinet system in the kid’s playroom, we left space for a large wall mount TV there too.

We have a set of operating rules for our TV consumption, so it’s not as if it’s on 24 hours a day.  Here’s how we do it in our house:

  1. TV should only be used as a “babysitter” sparingly.  Firstly, our kids, especially Luca (who is turning two next week) can’t really be left alone in a room.  If Julia (who is 5) is in the room with him, TV can buy us a few minutes at a time to do things like set the table for breakfast, wash dishes, or put the laundry in without having them underfoot and/or whining.  In the morning we have it on for the kids in our room while we get ready for work.  They stay in bed instead of getting underfoot making demands in the short time frame we have in the morning.  It makes life so much easier and eases their transition into the day from their early wake up time.
  2. Don’t watch TV in place of being outside. Our TV consumption goes up a lot in the winter between activities and playdates because it is too cold to go out in the backyard or to the playground.  But when the weather is nice, there’s no reason to be indoors so much staring at a screen.
  3. If we hate a show, the kids don’t watch it.  I’ve heard people complain over the years about everything from Barney to Caillou and resent that their kids love it (we don’t mind Caillou but apparently he really drives some people crazy).  Our strategy is that once we’ve seen a show a few times and know we can’t stand it, we don’t really encourage watching it.  Since we’re with our kids most of the time that they are watching TV, why do we need to suffer through Max & Ruby (I HATE Ruby) when we could watch Sofia the First or Peppa Pig, which I genuinely enjoy and think have good lessons.
  4. Focus on TV that encourages interaction/activity.  Julia loves a weird Australian kids’ show called Hi-5 that she found on Netflix.  There is a lot of singing and dancing on the show, and Julia will often sing and dance with the show instead of watching it from the couch, which I much prefer.  We also put on YouTube sometimes and dance together to videos.
  5. Watch shows that teach them things. Right now  as I type this we’re watching an episode of Sofia the First that is teaching it’s OK for girls to like activities traditionally reserved for boys and vice versa.  This little boy was embarrassed that he liked ice dancing, but Sofia helped him accept it was OK to want to be on the ice dancing team instead of play hockey and encouraged him to tell his dad, who was a little old fashioned. When Julia was little we were all obsessed with these “Classical Baby” DVDs – there was one for art, one for poems, and one for classical music.  I recently took Julia to her cousin Allison’s orchestra concert and she loved it.  I’d like to think it’s because she has a familiarity with classical music from watching those DVDs as a toddler.

Like anything as a parent, the decisions that work for your family don’t work for every family.  I’m ok with my kids watching a few hours of TV a day, as long as they aren’t passive zombies, because selfishly I enjoy watching them too.  Peppa Pig is my jam, I could watch her all day.  But I know people who don’t let their kids watch TV at all or only a teeny tiny bit, so I will end with one of my key Mom Tips: You do you.  For us, that means embracing our love for TV and sharing it with our kids.

 

 

The importance of Diner Friday

When Brian and I first bought our house in the suburbs eight years ago, we spent time remodeling it ourselves before moving in.  Every weekend we’d work from sunrise to sunset and then drag ourselves to this diner we’d found in town to scarf down dinner and try not to fall asleep in the booth.  After we moved in, we established a routine of going out to dinner every Friday.  More often than not we found ourselves at the diner.

When we had Julia, my sister suggested that we continue to go out for dinner even when she was a baby.  She said she’d started taking her kids out when they were babies and they learned from an early age to behave well in restaurants.  Parenthood cramps your style in all sorts of ways, so we figured we’d try to keep this particular routine alive even with the variable of a newborn.

We made it through diaper changes, crying and nursing in the booth  Then we made it to the high chair, tantrums, and food throwing.  We also made it through some very fun, easy dinners, don’t get me wrong. We started making friends with other families who frequented the diner at the very early hour we did.  We got to know the hosts and hostesses, found a regular waiter who knew all our favorites – diet cokes, pickles and coleslaw for everyone before the meal, a bread basket to keep the kids busy, but no vegetable tray (who eats radishes by the way??).

I’ve written previously about how demanding my career is and how long my hours tend to be, especially when you add my commute to it.  I’ve also mentioned how early my kids go to bed.  Diner Friday requires that I leave work at the very early hour of 4:30, well before my colleagues, in order to make a train that gets me in at 6, and at the diner by 6:15.  By the time we’re finished eating we’ve pushed past both Luca and Julia’s bedtimes, but they seem able to rally somehow specifically for this night.

That’s why I do it every single Friday.  Four days a week, I only see my kids an hour a day.  But Diner Friday is my chance to have a meal with my kids.  My industry has a lot of young people in it, folks who can eat dinner at 8, 9, or 10 o’clock at night if they so choose.  That’s awesome for them, and I certainly enjoyed my time doing the same thing when I was younger.  But if I want to keep our Friday dinner tradition alive, I need to make the decision that’s right for me and our family.  At each job I’ve worked in since I had kids, I made this part of the deal.  Need me to put in hours of work Saturday and Sunday nights?  No problem, I’m home most weekend nights because babysitters are expensive.  But try to schedule a meeting with me at 5pm on a Friday?  Nope. That’s family diner night.

Mom tip: Decide what your non-negotiables are, at home and at work and stick to them.

 

Working, mom

I am a working mom. Some days I am not sure if this means I am a mom who works, or I am a worker who is also a mom.  Over the last few years, I’ve watched my career path take a few twists and turns that have made me think about the dual roles of parenting and career.

I never considered being a a stay at home before I had kids. My early struggles with PPD and general difficulty acclimating to parenting have proven to me that I am a happier, better mommy because I work outside the house.  I hope this goes without saying, but I want to stop here and say that I think stay at home moms are awesome.  Just because I don’t want to be one doesn’t mean I don’t have the utmost respect for them. Mom tip: Don’t judge other moms.

My career has been a great source of pride in my life.  There have been times when I loved it so much that I wanted to be at work more than I wanted to be at home with the kids.  This was partly escapism I think, especially when Julia was young and I was having a tough time.  But it’s also because I have a genuine passion for the type of work I do – I work in social media which is exciting and fast paced  in an ever evolving space.

In addition to being an exciting career, it’s also one that requires a lot of time in and out the office. I leave the house at 7:20 every morning and get home about the same time at night because I live in the suburbs of NYC and my commute takes about an hour and twenty minutes door to door each way.  My kids are already asleep when I get home. Most nights after my husband and I eat dinner I get back online to do more work.  At night on the weekends (since we don’t go out at night much because of the kids) I often do work to catch up.

What this means is that I don’t see my kids very much.  They are up with us at 6 am so I get a little time with them before work, but I spend the majority of it getting ready. Mom tip: Even though I’d love to see my kids when I get home at night and have thought about keeping them up later, their optimal happiness level seems to be when they go to sleep between 6:30 – 7pm.  Don’t force a schedule for your kids to fit you if it doesn’t work well for them.

I’m lucky that Brian has a job that enables him to get home in time to relieve the nanny and put the kids to bed.  I’ve noticed that a lot of my working mom friends have the bedtime shift. They either leave work even earlier than I do (I leave around 5:30, which where I work is really early) to put their kids to bed, or they have kids that go to bed later.  Many of them seem to be responsible for making dinner too, which I also don’t do.  Since Brian comes home first, he’s the one that heats up the leftovers.  But the reason we have leftovers in the first place is that he does all the cooking (he loves to cook and is excellent at it, whereas I don’t and have limited kitchen skills).

Yes, I know, I’m extremely lucky, like really really lucky, and so I feel like a shit for complaining.  And I don’t know if I am complaining.  I mean, I adore my kids, but I don’t feel like I need to be with them all the time.  I cherish their delicious faces, their funny expressions, their little kid voices, their enthusiasm.  But even on the weekends, I also cherish the minutes when I can do something around the house without having someone crying or whining or demanding something.

Feeling this way, this lack of “child first” in my experience as a parent makes me feel isolated. I am a working mom, so I don’t relate to stay at home moms, but I also feel like I don’t have the same experiences as a lot of the working moms I know.  Sometimes I relate better to the working dads, except they don’t seem to have quite as much guilt. Actually, who knows if that’s true – I am sure many working dads have as much guilt as working moms.  But they seem to talk about it less, or when they do talk about it, it’s more matter of fact.

Lately, I’ve been trying to focus more on what I want out of my life, because I’ve been going through some pretty significant personal and professional stress and it has been making me question both arenas.  While I haven’t been able to resolve or answer a number of my outstanding existential crises (I mean, who has? No really, who has? If you have, come talk to me!) there was one I came to terms with that kind of blew my mind.  I asked myself a question that was so simple but that in my parenting stresses and job stresses I never bothered to ask myself before: If you could have the career of your dreams or your family but not both, which one would you choose?  

The answer was family, without a second thought.  I have a feeling there are very few people who currently have spouses and kids that would say career but if they do, I’m sorry for them. Please note, this doesn’t mean I’d be happy if I didn’t have my career. My job is super important to my identity as a person, and so it will always be something I’ll struggle with as I try and be the best mom and wife I can while working a demanding job.  I don’t see myself downsizing my professional goals to be at home more, but I do think I can commit to being more present when I actually am home. This commitment is going to take some adjusting of my life, if I am being honest. Even today was sneaking in laptop time whenever the kids were playing contentedly, and that’s got to change if I want to live in the moment and not on a device.

But at the end of the day, my revelation that I’d choose family over career is what makes me a (wife and) mom who works, and not a worker who is a mom.  Not even all the ambition in the world (of which I have a tremendous amount) can change that for me, because no job title or press quote or client accolade will ever be able to replace a family hug.