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Marriage And Early Motherhood, Part I


The baby is up to date on The Walking Dead.

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

When I first approached Meg to do an interview with me about early motherhood, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to get out of it exactly. It’s not so much that Michael and I are even in a place where we want kids yet, but I’m definitely in a place where I want to be able to talk about wanting kids without having to spiral down into hyperbole. So much of what’s available for conversations about parenting is either fear-mongering, or condescending, or prescriptive, and none of it allows for me to safely express my anxieties about having children in a space where I feel like I’m being given platform for honest discussion (both online and off). And if the 500 plus comments from our open thread on the subject are any indication, I’m willing to bet that the same goes for a lot of you.

Over the past few years APW has played the role for me of best friend’s big sister, who will tell it like it is. So, I thought maybe an old fashioned sleepover-type confessional could be the answer. As some of you might know from Meg’s pregnancy announcement last year, Meg and David are choosing to keep their family life pretty private, so this might be the most I ever get out of her on the subject. Meg will be the first to tell you that she’s no expert on child-rearing (her words were “I’ve been at this for exactly four and a half months. You can call me in for expert advice when I’ve had ten kids.”) Which means that this interview is not meant to be in any way prescriptive, nor is it meant to represent the experience of all new mothers everywhere. Rather, in the same way that I once found solace in these pages hearing that marriage wouldn’t fundamentally change who I am if I didn’t let it, and that a career move isn’t a prison sentence, this interview gave me the reassurance that having children doesn’t mean getting on a roller coaster ride and enduring it until it’s time to get off. When Meg and I first started talking about this interview, she told me, “I don’t want to offer any advice on motherhood, other than the magic that is overnight diapers. The rest is just thoughts from the trenches. Your mileage may vary.” I think that just about sums it up. So here is part one of Marriage And Early Motherhood (part two to follow next week). May it spark a non-terrifying conversation that makes you feel a little better too.

Maddie

Marriage And Early Motherhood, Part I | A Practical Wedding

That Gut Feeling

Meg: Are you going to set the scene? Wisteria. A lime popsicle. The sun. Chicken enchiladas, cooked by Meg’s husband.

Maddie: [Laughing] Yes. The enchiladas were really good. Ok, so one of the first questions people asked in the comments of our open thread was about the issue of confidence with the decision to have kids. Because I think a lot of people are concerned that if you aren’t 100% certain that you want, want, WANT a baby, that you have no business having one. And I’m curious what your take is on that?

Meg: Yeah, I think that’s bullshit. There’s this Elizabeth Gilbert quote in Committed where someone says to her something like, “Having a baby is like having a tattoo on your face. If you’re not sure about it, you shouldn’t get it.” And I just don’t think that’s true. There are very few decisions in life that you’re that sure about, period. Right? And I think that probably anyone who is 100% sure about having kids and never has any questions about it, that is where I might question whether or not you knew what you were getting into. Because you’re committing to a very big life change, and the scary thing about having kids is that it’s the one of the few things in your life you can’t get out of. The dirty secret about marriage is that if it doesn’t work you get a divorce. Yeah, it sucks, and it’s going to fuck up your life but you move on. The scary part about having a kid is that it’s irrevocable. So if there isn’t some part of you that’s like, “Uh, is this a good idea?” I just worry that you haven’t applied your analytical self to it.

Maddie: I feel like there’s this thing that’s happening, where there’s celebrity pregnancies are really oddly sexualized, and then in educated, urban communities there is this glorification of pregnancy and motherhood. I’m curious how you anticipated, and also dealt with that. Because that’s something I’m scared of… having to explain why I’m either bottle feeding or not using cloth diapers, or on the flipside having to explain doing all those things… I guess, it’s the whole mainstream versus indie thing.

Meg: Right. In some ways we were protected because we’re so early in our friends circle having kids.

Maddie: Which is hilarious also.

Meg: Right? Because I’m, what? 32? But we have a couple of friends who have kids… our friends who have kids have kids who are either five or thirteen (we have a lot of friends that got pregnant right after high school, or are a little older than us, or who just don’t have kids at all.) There was no one that was contemporaneously having children. So we were able to do things the way we thought were logical, which has led to some interesting social moments later, when we were around parents, because we, like, didn’t know that everyone got an infant car seat and it just didn’t seem logical to us, so we didn’t get an infant car seat. We got a convertible car seat, and then we didn’t have an infant carrier to carry the baby around with and I totally looked like I was making a political statement when I was out with other mothers. But that sort of protected me in some ways. I did feel a lot of pressure around the, what I call the Cult of Whole Motherhood: give birth at home, don’t have an epidural, don’t ever bottle feed, etc. Though ultimately a lot of that stuff worked itself out. I sort of fundamentally (no surprise here, the whole site is built around this) am just not a dogmatic person. So I went into labor being like, you know it might be nice not to get an epidural, but we’ll see, I had a pretty precipitous labor so—our doula actually said it was the most intense labor she’d ever witnessed—so I got an epidural. I had milk supply issues right away, so I supplemented with formula. Because it seemed like the baby was going to starve if we didn’t. And now, he’s 95% breast fed. So I sort of worked it out by doing what was logical. But there does have to be a certain amount of just tuning out what different people want you to do.

Do Your Hormones Eat Your Rational Brain?

Maddie: Shifting to post-baby, one of the questions that really struck me in the comments of the open thread was whether or not you can avoid your own hormones? And this idea that there’s a lot of inevitability built into having a kid, in that you can say you’re not going to want to do X, or you can think you don’t want do Y, but once the baby’s there and your hormones kick in, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Meg: Sort of yes, sort of no. I think the way the narrative is built is really damaging. You’re not going to become a new person unless on some level you want to become a new person or are secretly hoping you’ll become a new person or are just really embracing that. So this whole idea that “You just don’t now, you just don’t know”—I think in the big picture I don’t know that that’s actually true. I knew I wanted to keep working, and people said “Oh you just don’t know, you just don’t know,” and, well, no. I know who I am, right, so I do want to keep working.

However, you don’t know what your hormones are going to do. But the idea that your hormones take over your rational brain is not true. I was not aware the I was physically going to go through withdrawal having the baby in daycare, I was going to be physically shaky at first because my hormones were at conflict with my rational mind. My rational mind wanted to be at work, but also my baby was happier in daycare, I was happier with him in daycare, but my hormones were telling me something else. So yes. In some ways you can’t avoid your hormones and they are super powerful, and they’re going to do what they are going to do, but your rational mind is still as much in play as ever.

Maddie: When it comes to a lot of the other stuff that I think people try to caution you about: the lack of sleep, how much attention they need, how many physical needs they have, I know a lot of people expressed concern over just being able to function as they know themselves in those early days and whether or not they could physically survive it.

Meg: [Laughing] Everyone has physically survived it since the dawn of time. Everyone has not physically survived childbirth, so without modern medicine, you should probably be worried. But everyone has physically survived having a tiny child. You’re going to totally physically survive it. David wanted me to tell you that it’s not so bad.

Maddie: Of course he did.

Meg: What former APW staff member Alyssa told me before I gave birth was that you can be tired, or tired and mad about it. Just choose tired. And that’s totally the case. You’re going to be tired. If you physically give birth to the child, your hormones are actually going to help you. I, in some ways, did a lot better than David did, because my hormones were there to help get me through the chopped up sleep. But at the end of the day, it’s not as bad as it’s sold, at all. There are still days where I’m exhausted. We’re still up and down all night, but good things are always hard, in my experience. But for me the good was so big, that the fact that it was hard just sort of made sense. I still actually really miss the newborn days. (And a lot of people don’t. Everyone experiences it really individually.) But I really miss that bubble of brand new person-ness. There was the whole lack of sleep that came with it, but it was this amazing sort of magical time.

Pretend Your Feet Are Broken

Maddie: How do you think the newborn phase would have been different if you hadn’t had the kind of self-employed schedule and flexibility that you have? Because I feel like a lot of our readers are probably in 9-5 jobs where they don’t have that kind of flexibility. Or can you even say? I just want to get at the bigger cultural thing of how we structure new parenthood.

Meg: Well, what I will say is I went into thinking “Oh the British are so lucky. They get a year off. The Canadians are so lucky. They get nine months off. I wish I had that option.” And I came out of it thinking [Breaks for popsicle. Gets brain freeze] I came out of it thinking “Thank God I’m not British because if I were British I would have felt huge pressure to stay home for a year.” I was really unhappy just being at home one on one with the baby at a certain point, after David went back to work. And he was really unhappy. The baby and I are both extroverts, we were both getting bored.

It would have been very different for me if David hadn’t been able to take off. David took advantage of California’s Family and Medical Leave Act that says that both parents are entitled to six weeks off paid at 55%. So we took full advantage of that. And because of life circumstances we ended up with seven weeks, so we were home together for seven weeks. And it would have been really different for me, and I think it would have really shaped our family differently over the long term if only I had been able to be home. And if we have another child, I think we’re going to work really hard to do the same thing where we both take time off.

But I ended up only really taking seven weeks. He started some daycare after seven weeks and I was working pretty heavily before that anyway. The one thing that would have really changed things is if I didn’t want to go back to my job. I have some friends who had kids around the same time as us, some of them didn’t like their jobs and didn’t go back to their jobs because they didn’t like their jobs. They sort of used this as a way to transition. So if I didn’t really like my job, I think it would have been a different situation.

Maddie: So, I want to talk about David. One, because I like him. And also because one of the most liked comments on the open thread was “How has your marriage changed since having a kid?” It got like 150 exactly’s or something crazy like that. So I think people are afraid that after having a kid that it’s all going to go to shit.

Meg: Ok, so there’s a couple of things I need to parse out. And the first one is your actual relationship. Our relationship got a lot stronger through the pregnancy, particularly because it was difficult. I’m really glad that happened, because there’s naturally going to be things that happen directly after the birth that put strain on your relationship, so it’s nice that it was built on an even firmer foundation than it was. I didn’t think it could have been on a firmer foundation, and then I got pregnant and things were difficult and it sort of strengthened infinitely.

The second thing is the way your relationship changes directly after the birth. Directly after the birth you’re thrown together in a super close way because you both have incredibly strong feelings for this brand new person that nobody else shares in the same way. And you’ve just gone through this enormous thing together, of child birth. You’re also working together on a project, for lack of a better term, so it really throws you together. But there is this element of just, on a pure sort of hormonal level, and a pure the-way-nature-designs-it, you’re both, I think, just sort of overwhelmed with this love for this new person, and I think there is probably almost always a period of time where that sort of takes primacy to your relationship. We’re still sort of in that period, but there is obviously going to be a time that our lives will sort of re-balance as we settle in, and as the baby becomes more a part of the family, and as the baby gets old enough to, you know, be a little shit. And then it’s going to re-balance again and it’s going to be fine. So having a baby changes your relationship in ways that I think are both profound and also temporary.

But the third thing that has to be parsed out is the gender dynamics. And we have found those to be terrifically difficult, and I think that most people probably find them to be terrifically difficult. There’s just the fundamental imbalance that if you are a woman and you give birth to a baby, you have more demands on you. You had demands all the way through the pregnancy, which are super challenging (let’s not kid ourselves, you’re the one who went through birth.) But then you’re very much recovering. I had surgery, I’d put on a lot of weight. I was really deep in the recovery for probably about ten weeks, because I had other medical stuff come up. And then you’re feeding, which early on is like half your life, and they’re supporting you through that. So there’s all these demands that are on you, that are not on them. Which means that you really need to have a fundamental foundation of equality before you go into it. The reason we have been as OK as we have been is going into it David already did all of the cooking, David already sort of took the lead on the cleaning, which is not gender usual, but maybe should be! Because what happened was, I was in physical pain and tied to the baby all of the time feeding, and he was able to make sure we were fed  and make sure the house was clean, and all of that. And had that been primarily my responsibility and I was trying to walk him through it, I think it would have been a complete physical disaster, and an emotional disaster.

And then the final piece is sort of the way the world views it. It got much harder for us when he went back to work, because there’s a work culture where men are expected to have less primary responsibility. I also have a flexible job, but I think even if I did not have a flexible job, this would happen—because there’s this assumption that the woman’s job is always going to be more flexible. So, if the baby needs to be picked up from daycare, he finds it really hard to say, “I need to leave early because the kid needs to be picked up from daycare.” If he were a woman, then the reaction would be, like, “Well, of course, daycare is going to close. You gotta get the kid.” But because he’s not a woman, there’s sort of this unspoken assumption that, well, your wife can get the kid, are you slacking if you leave? So those outside pressures are what makes it really difficult, and then leads to changes in internal behavior, where the male partner can really start to act like, “Well, I’m just helping out. I just want to do what I need to help you. I just want to support you.” Which then ends up feeling like, “Why are you helping me? Shouldn’t you be in a primary role as well?” So, balancing outside pressures can be really difficult as well.

Maddie: Because now that we’re talking about it, that’s kind of my biggest fear. I mean, Michael and I have a good partnership, but there’s still stuff that we’re working out regarding equality and I find that the hard part is this idea of “You’re just better at it,” and that’s still stuff we struggle with, like, “Can you make that appointment for me? You’re just better at it.” And I’m curious if that’s something you have to actively fight?

Meg: Luckily for me, David is just better it.

Maddie: David’s just a special guy. Can I make a disclaimer on the post that says David is very special?

Meg: [Laughing] David’s just better at a lot of crap than I am. So that helps. I’m genuinely not better at a lot of that stuff. He had to step up also in pregnancy in a lot of ways that I think really benefited us later on, because I was incapacitated in a way that I just couldn’t make appointments, I just couldn’t take care of things for myself. And if you have a less bad pregnancy, you might be incapacitated to a lesser extent, but you’re always going to be somewhat physically incapacitated. Which was good practice, because it was like, when you’re hugely pregnant, if your partner is like, “You’re just better at making appointments,” you’re going to be like, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Maddie: Well that’s my fear is that, I know I trust Michael. I know that Michael would step up. But there’s this tiny voice in the back of my head that’s like, “What if I don’t have the kind of husband that can step up when I need it?”

Meg: Start practicing. Incapacitate yourself one day a week. Pretend your feet are broken.

Shower Strikes and The Walking Dead

Maddie: Ok, so I’m curious. Because I look at your relationship and it’s all fine and dandy, but I want to know, you know, are things getting done? Are the dishes getting done? Is dinner being made? Or have you had to make allowances for yourselves? Have things gotten more permissive?

Meg: Yeah, I mean, things have gotten… I wouldn’t say more permissive, but yeah we order in more than we did. In some ways, I feel like one of the reasons I’ve really taken to motherhood is I’m sort of a constant motion kind of person, I function best in constant motion. And it used to be that nights and weekends were not constant motion times. And I get a little glum if I don’t have things to do. And I’m always doing something now. I’m cleaning the floor, or making sure the laundry is folded, or unloading the dishwasher or whatever. And not in a gendered way, just in a “there’s a lot of shit that needs to get done” way. And for me, that has been very good, and I’ve sort of taken to it.

But I would say the sort of changes have been a lot less dramatic than you’re led to believe. There’s never been a day since I gave birth, including the day after I gave birth, where I did not shower. David was in there with me in the shower in the hospital room because I couldn’t stand on my own and there was blood everywhere, but I was like, “I’m going to take a goddamn shower.” Our house was very, very clean when we had a newborn, because it was a priority for me to feel like there was normalcy and feel like I was not living in a house that had just gone to chaos and there was baby stuff everywhere. There is still not baby stuff everywhere. I never wore sweatpants, I wore yoga pants.

Maddie: You’re making me feel terrible by the way. I didn’t shower today and I spent half of my morning in sweatpants. Thanks.

Meg: But my point is that I think everybody prioritizes different things, but for me, going into it, having a neat house and showering were super important so those happened. But I’m sure there are other things that you would prioritize that didn’t even occur to me, that didn’t happen.

Maddie: Like Dance Moms.

Meg: Like Dance Moms. I actually did watch a fair amount of bad TV. Weirdly, we also have managed—we are up-to-date on Girls. We are up to date on Project Runway.

Maddie: And the baby is up-to-date on The Walking Dead.

Meg: The baby is up-to-date on The Walking Dead! But what people didn’t tell me is that whatever is really important to you you will mostly be able to prioritize (in most situations, obviously there are exceptions and extreme situations that require more of your attention.) We did not have everything fall our way. We had a baby that was in NICU, and there were other problems, but we were able to prioritize what was  important to us. So I think that people really are going to be able to prioritize what’s important to them. Even if it’s not showering.

Maddie: And I do prioritize… not showering. I did do my hair though.

Meg: See! I didn’t do my hair! That is it. I did not do my hair. You could probably get your hair done every single day after having a baby in a non-extreme situation.

Maddie: I feel much better now.

Meg: But you would not shower.

Maddie: No, I would have my hair and eyebrows done, but I’ll probably be sitting around in sweatpants not showering.

** To be continued, next week.**

Photo of Meg and baby from the APW Staff Party by Maddie (Back when he didn’t go to bed at 7pm sharp. Sigh.)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    Thanks for the honesty here. I have always felt that “whatever is really important to you, you will mostly be able to prioritize”. Which is why I have never doubted we will travel with the baby, go on walks with it, and so forth. In a way that is why I have never understood the fear of “losing yourself” by being a mom. Maybe it’s because I have a very very strong sense of who I am, but I have never had that fear, it’s more the other way around, I want to share those things with our future children, it’s one of the reasons I want to parent… to play, explore the world together…. For me it’s adding to the fun, not the opposite. This article hints beautifully at what I am trying to say .

    As for the hormones, obviously I have no experience being pregnant or having given birth here, but I am guessing it is similar to what happens every month? *Maybe, probably stronger, but still. There are those days when I feel like crying or screaming or overreact in situations that I would normally just shrug off. But if you feel what you have to feel, and then let it go, it will be fine, because the effect also passes.
    ——–
    *and I also know this experience varies enormously amongst women, some girls don’t feel anything. I was crazy afraid of having to use follitotropin and then hcg as part of fertility treatments and surprisingly I don’t feel anything at all. But 1 day before my period, and Katy Kaboom is here.

    • meg

      I’ll let other people give their two cents, but my pregnancy and post pregnancy hormones were totally different than my monthly hormones. I never had anything like PMS, though I had both depression and euphoria. But really really different. I never had that crying overreacting thing, persay.

    • Liz

      For me, there was a very real nurturing instinct that surfaced during pregnancy, and then immediately following, that since dissipated (at least in its… urgency?). Because of the timing, I would imagine it was hormonal or something. But, at the end of pregnancy, I would (for example) cry about needing to leave the cat home alone all day. It wasn’t just mood swing- it was very directed, very related to wanting to nurture.

      After giving birth, it became a little hard to distinguish “desire to be with my baby” from “just general sadness/possible postpartum depression.” The two sort of blurred together and overlapped.

      When I experience PMS, I don’t have crying-PMS. I have rage-PMS. The only similar experience during pregnancy/post was rage in tandem with that nurturing. Like, your stereotypical Mama-Bear-style, “ARE YOU HURTING MY BABY?! HULKSMASH.”

      • meg

        Totally agree with Liz that it’s all different, obviously, but I had slightly different instincts. I was depressed during pregnancy, but worried about helpless things. After pregnancy I was euphoric, loved being with the baby even sleepless, but also fine leaving him to go get a drink or what have you. And I never had the mamma bear thing you here so much about. I immediately had the feeling that lots of people in our lives wanted good things for the baby, so I should trust them. (Not normally how my brain works.)

      • Class of 1980

        Try taking Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D. I use a product from Life Extension called Neuro-Mag that contains all three. Yesterday I read that those three calm PMS and help with bloating, tenderness, and yes, rage.

        I was taking it because according to the blood type diet book, Type B is naturally too low on Magnesium, which helps to calm.

        Wish I had known it years ago. I’m suffering rage-PMS right now and it’s helping.

        • Liz

          I’ll try it! But really think it would be most helpful if the world would stop being so annoying.

          • http://prettypicturesbydanielle.tumblr.com/ Danielle

            Oh yes. I want to smash EVERYTHING when I have my period.

            This Julie Doucet cartoon panel sums it up quite nicely: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9siqnpFxy1rfppz2o1_400.png

          • Class of 1980

            Well, I hadn’t been taking my Neuro-Mag regularly like I’m supposed to. It’s a powder you mix with water.

            Then after six months of no periods (menopause, will you ever show up?) springtime woke up my body and I simultaneously have symptoms of ovulating (with no egg) and PMS at the same time. Yes, this is a bizarre thing that happens in peri-menopause.

            Six months to forget what PMS feels like and then my world caves in – rage, unbearable breast soreness, bloating, and body aches. I wanted the entire world to go to HELL yesterday.

            Drank some Neuro-Mag last night and today and my symptoms are 75% gone.

          • Alison
    • Maddie

      I wanted to weigh in from an outside perspective, because I actually find the hormones thing to be super interesting. I have super strong PMS hormones. I get very depressed, ragey, weepy, you name it. And I was expecting to hear a lot of the same from my new mother friends. And while obviously it’s different for everyone, what’s fascinated me is that when I hear them talk about hormones, much of the time it has to do with a physical connection to the baby. Whereas my PMS hormones are there, I’m pretty sure, just to torture me. The baby hormones seem to be there in a very primal way to make sure that you’re taking care of your kid, I think. (i.e. feeding when they cry, etc.)

      Moms, please correct me if I’m wrong. Just speaking from observation. I find hormones fascinating on a whole ‘nother level. Probably because mine are always torturing me.

      • meg

        Yes. Well said. Mine had a lot to do with skin to skin time with the baby, the way I responded to his cries, etc.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        Or, you know, your hormones go bat shit crazy and PPD hits within hours of birth and they won’t let you leave the hospital because you can’t stop crying hysterically.

        Not to be alarmist or anything. :) But hormones are CRAZY, and hit different people in different ways. My PPD wasn’t over until my period started again and my hormones returned to normal. Everyone has such a different reaction to them.

    • Marina

      For me postpartum was kind of similar to PMS, except… overwhelming, I guess? I’m usually pretty good about realizing when I’m PMSing and just not taking myself too seriously, and that didn’t happen as much postpartum. Maybe it was just harder to separate out what was a feeling rooted in new hormonal changes, and what was a feeling rooted in this huge new life change. My baseline of what “normal” was supposed to be was totally out of whack.

    • http://thedailyfifteen.wordpress.com/ Brandi

      I wanted to speak to the fear of losing yourself to motherhood. I grew up in a home with a stay-at-home martyr mom. She abdicated her entire identity to being our mom, and she is now floundering. Both children are grown, and she has no idea what she wants to do with her time. I knew heading into parenthood that I wanted to be a better example for my son, he is not the only thing in my life, even if I do stay home with him.

      I think another reason one might go into pregnancy and parenthood with this particular fear is because no matter how strong a sense of who you are you have, you haven’t yet been a parent. Cliche as it sounds, there is no manual, so you look outside for references. Society provides us with bad references, this all or nothing mentality and guilt trips us for wanting to take care of ourselves and remain a separate person. When you see these examples, its hard not to wonder if you’re doing it wrong when most of what you see as references tells you that the child trumps everything. It does take a strong sense of yourself, and your family, to look at the references, find what works for you, call bullsh*t on the rest, and move along, regardless of the pressures. It took me a while to find that ability, I knew me well, but I was a bit shaky in the me as mom role for a bit. He was new, being a mom was new, and it took me a while to get to know them both.

      • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

        Speaking as another daughter-of-a-stay-at-home mom, exactly exactly exactly (though my mom is now pursuing professional interests, yay her!)… and a younger me did want to be a stay at home mom (and have 5 or 7 or 12 kids, yikes).

        I’m still shaky in the me-as-mom role, and my daughter will be 2 next month. How am I in charge of this kid?

        • http://thedailyfifteen.wordpress.com/ Brandi

          Right?!? How is there not some sort of certification one needs before having a kid? Things I wonder daily.

          I ended up choosing to stay home out of a combination of desire, not yet being able to work in the field I want to, and timing. It’s not a forever deal. And 2 kids, only 2, never more. 5/7/12, wow. Can’t even imagine.

        • http://thedailyfifteen.wordpress.com/ Brandi

          Also, YAY YOUR MOM!

  • one more sara

    Meg, you totally nailed it. Esp the part about prioritizing. Hearing “everything will work itself out” about new mother/parenthood was incredibly frustrating (it ended up being true, but it is still not helpful mid-freak out), and I think rephrasing that into “you will figure out how to do things that are important to you” is much more helpful and encouraging for parents-to-be. For me, it was important to remain social, so I made sure to meet up with at least one friend a week and get out of the house almost every day. We went out to a restaurant with baby in his first week. Not everything can stay the same, but the important things won’t change that much.

    • kgoesgallivanting

      I also really appreciated the part about prioritizing because, honestly, it’s what everyone has to do in stressful situations. We figure out what’s most important and to what extent we can compromise. When my dad was sick a few years ago, there were projects and tasks that were put on the shelf for awhile (especially since my mother and I are not handy people), but we were able to get the necessary things done. Everyone was still fed, we all had clean clothes, we made it to doctor appointments, we watched every new episode of the Big Bang Theory, and we made it to major family gatherings. Sure mom and dad’s house was a mess most of the time and we vacuumed less than usual, but we were content with how things worked out. It was hard, and we worried a lot, but we also laughed, danced, and smiled.

      This was definitely my family at the time: “Yeah, I mean, things have gotten…I wouldn’t say more permissive, but yeah we order in more than we did.”

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Leaving the house basically every single day of my year long mat leave was, truly, my saving grace. Be it for a walk, a playdate, or dinner out, we left the house every day that wasn’t like, a blizzard.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        But I didn’t shower every day, because I never shower every day – it’s just not that high on my priority list.

    • http://ahobbitatheart.blogspot.com/ rachel

      So true. Having a shower every day was important to me- it makes me feel good. A small thing, but it doesn’t seems so small with a newborn. However, whenever baby was chill enough to sit in his little rocker seat, I plopped that bad boy in the bathroom with me and took a nice, decent shower. You make the important things happen.

  • Mayweed

    Brilliant interview M &M!

    I would absolutely second (third?) the idea of the gender balance – like Meg, my husband was already head cook and cleaner, and so he did (and still does) a really good job of looking after us when our daughter was born. Now we’re both back at work, we do have a conflict about who’s going to collect her from nursery – if we’re both still busy at work, one of us has to compromise our standing in our jobs (in that you are undeniably less useful/seen as less committed if you have to leave even if there’s something big going on) but we’ve managed to split those days pretty evenly so far – and we have managed to avoid any “my job is more important than yours” rows as yet. But that’s only because he has male colleagues who also have to leave to do the pick-up so he’s not breaking any new ground. I would say it’s a conversation definitely worth having in advance.

    On a side note: I’m British, and while I enjoyed my nine months off very much indeed, people would have judged me in reverse had I chosen to go back to work sooner. I thought about it, and this time round I might even do it, but people will definitely consider it odd.

    I’ve also found that the guilt about being at work, and preferring to be at work, has grown in proportion to my daughter’s ability to speak. I still think it’s the right thing to do, for me and for her, but I feel much worse about it now she’s two than I did when she was nine months.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    Thank you so much for this. We’re planning to start trying in the next few months and it’s completely terrifying, mostly because of what you said about it being the one commitment that you can’t ever walk away from. But there are a thousand small fears that make up that big one and you’re helping to allay some of the most immediate fears. It’s also been helpful to me to see that most of the women in my running group are there with babies and kids in strollers. Not only did they not give up running, I think having kids motivates them even more to get out and go since they get social time with other women and their kids like to play together after the run. I feel a lot better about potential parenthood when I see that I can have a baby and still run, travel, read, and stay caught up on Project Runway. I know that having a baby will change our lives, but it’s my hope that it will be more of an addition to our lives than a transformation.

  • anon

    FYI – maternity leave in the UK is up to a year, but at severely reduced (and for some of it zero) pay. Fathers get 2 weeks. So also far from ideal. Germany (and other continental countries) have a way better system.

    • meg

      True that. But we have NO system. Well, except in CA, where we blessedly have six weeks at 55% for both parents, which is CRAZY AMAZING in the states (and was perfect for us).

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      And Canada does get a whole year, paid, not 9 months. 16 weeks for the mother, and 34 weeks can be split between parents however they see fit.

      • Not Sarah

        It’s only paid at 55% up to a cap:

        “For most people, the basic rate for calculating EI benefits is 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount. As of January 1, 2013, the maximum yearly insurable earnings amount is $47,400. This means that you can receive a maximum amount of $501 per week.”

        $501/week = $26,070 annually, which works out to the same pay as working full-time for $12.53/hour.

        http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/maternity_parental.shtml

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          Oh, sure. I took a much larger than 45% pay cut. But that doesn’t mean the government didn’t drop $945 in my bank account every two weeks for 50 weeks. I don’t feel I can complain about ONLY getting almost 2k a month to hang out with my baby.

          (And PS to other Canucks: they don’t take withholdings, and come April you get a surprise $1500 tax bill. Jerks.)

        • Ash

          Yes this is what the government supplements- but most (? many?)) workplaces add more to the amount. I know when my sister was on mat leave she received close to 100% of her salary, with the amount decreasing as more time passed… to encourage people to return to work.

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            That’s totally industry specific. I don’t know anyone in oil and gas in my city who got top up. Just people in public sector and finance.

        • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

          There’s a cap on the amount in California too. Though I can’t recall it, it’s not super high.

          • meg

            No, not true. Or if there is, looking at the fact sheets, it’s somewhere over 100K a year. The deal is that you pay in at a percentage of your paycheck, so if you have a big paycheck, you’ve paid in a lot. You’re basically pulling your own money back out, in essence.

            (It’s possible they changed it in the last two years, but what it is now is solid gold.)

    • Allie

      Fathers can actually share the maternity leave in the UK for up to 26 weeks, BUT it’s only if the mother has returned to work- they are effectively taking unused statutory maternity leave.
      (Ref: https://www.gov.uk/paternity-pay-leave)

      And I agree, the paid part is crap. Up to 90% pay for first 6 weeks (2 weeks leave is mandatory following birth) and then the lowest amount of money possible following that. However, being an American I am definitely glad that there *is* a statutory policy (note- companies must meet it as a minimum, so there are better deals out there). Having lived in Denmark and worked for a Danish company in the UK, I definitely regret having left a job with 1 year fully paid maternity leave (from the leave perspective, not the job/company)…!

      Along those lines— I know Meg is self-employed, but does anyone have any tips regarding how one goes about discreetly inquiring about maternity policies when job searching? It seems to be a catch-22… something which is potentially important to me at some point in my future and something I (now) want to consider (whereas before it was a benefit that was massively removed from my thoughts) – so I would love to hear thoughts/comments on this!

      • Colorado Laurel

        Try to find a personnel manual and/or benefits policy. I think most places will post those two items on their website. Pay attention to tricky things like how long you have to work for an employer before the policy goes into effect.

        Also, any private sector employer with over 50 employees has to at least abide by FMLA: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.pdf

  • http://www.amid Lisa

    No surprise, a smart piece on early motherhood:).

    Of course, for some of us it’s all more hallucinogenic than Meg reports. And it’s hard to predict for whom that will be true. Whether it’s hormones or psychology, I cannot say what toggles the experience into la-la land.

    That said, I think her framework’s spot on.

    • meg

      Hallucinogenic is a good word though. It’s not much like PMS, but it is quite a bit like hard drugs, I think.

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

        Well oxytocin does seem to act on opioid receptors which would explain a bit of that.
        It’s also involved in the high we get when we just fall in love, that infatuation people.
        I find endocrinology fascinating.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          WAIT! I discovered, mid c-section, that morphine doesn’t work very well (at all?) as a pain killer for me. And I had PPD and took a long time to bond with my baby. Are you saying those two could be connected??

          Bodies are so cool.

        • lmba

          In my 3rd trimester now and, although I’ve had occasional bouts of feeling extra sensitive/upset/whatever that feel like they’re due to hormones, my biggest mood change has been an intense feeling of love and affection for my husband. Like, ridiculous drawing-hearts-around-his-name and gazing-into-his-eyes and can’t-stand-to-be-apart love. Which has it’s benefits, but is also a little intense for him… ha.

          • http://www.KatesShortandSweets.com Kate

            as a never-been-pregnant-person, that sounds kind of hilarious to me :) Are you also dotting “i”s with hearts a la seventh grade?

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    “I have some friends who had kids around the same time as us, some of them didn’t like their jobs and didn’t go back to their jobs because they didn’t like their jobs. They sort of used this as a way to transition. So if I didn’t really like my job, I think it would have been a different situation.”

    I wonder if maybe this is part of the secret of where some of that “you won’t want to go back” talk all comes from. I’m sure it’s hard for some people going back even to jobs they love, but when given a choice between staying home with a baby or going to a job you don’t like while you’re learning to be a parent I think it’s a lot easier of a decision for most people.

    Also, infant car seats???? I thought the type of car seat you linked to was the only type of baby car seat? How many baby seats do we need??????

    • Emily

      Infant car seats generally have the wonderful clicky base that lets you move your sleeping baby from stroller to car seat to house *without waking them up* (why there is no Nobel prize for this sort of thing, I cannot tell you), but can only take up to 30-36 lbs. Once your baby gets bigger you need a convertible car seat which lives in your car all the time (the whole seat, not just the base), and when your baby falls asleep in the car on the way home you will try desperately to disentangle them without waking them up. If you are me, you will usually fail. The convertible seat takes you all the way up to a booster seat, which starts around age 4/40 lbs and goes to around age 8/4’9″ tall.

      You don’t need to get an infant seat if you’d rather just go straight to a convertible seat, but IMHO they are huge life-enhancers. (As with everything baby-related, your mileage may vary.) If you’re worried about the additional costs you can save money by getting a snap-and-go to use with the infant seat and transitioning to a cheap umbrella stroller, instead of splashing out on a more expensive stand-alone infant stroller.

      • meg

        I, on the other hand, was so glad we didn’t have an infant car seat. We have an independent little thing (surprise, surprise), and from the beginning he liked to be SITTING UP AND LOOKING OUT. Also, when he was little little, he slept all the time anywhere and you could not wake him period at all, so moving him didn’t matter at all. And these days, I think how rageful he would be with me if he was lying down during travel. Kid would have things to SAY about that.

        That said, it makes restaurants a little more complicated, because until he can do a high chair, we hold him (or need space for a stroller). But that’s the only thing we missed.

        • Ari

          It totally varies by kid! I think I would have died without the infant seat for my first–he was a needy kid (still is) and pretty much only fell asleep in the car. Getting him into the house without waking him was the only chance for near-terminally-underslept-me to get any rest. It was just a bad scene, even with the seat.

          My second is (and has always been) super engaged in the car (and everywhere) and generally much more mellow than his brother. Having an infant carseat for him didn’t add a lot of value, and I moved him to a convertible seat before I needed to, weight-wise. He’s so much happier.

          Tip for expectant parents! If you’re not the first in your nearby family and social group to spawn, you might be able to audition various spendy gear that may or may not suit you and your kid (infant seat, swing, various carriers). But if you ARE first, or if nobody has the gear you want to try, you might be able to rent it. San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland* all have high-quality baby equipment rental companies that carry all of the above, plus strollers and travel cribs and all sorts of other stuff, and I’m betting that other cities do, too.

    • rys

      I wish people actually said they didn’t like their jobs rather than ignore that rather critical piece of information. I think (or hope?) a more honest conversation about jobs would diminish both the insistence on “you won’t want to go back” (except that there are people who do) and the employer assumption that women of child-bearing age are bad hires because they’ll leave. Women leaving because of babies and women leaving because the job is sucky are 2 rather different things, and focusing on the latter could potentially yield productive discussions about what would make the job better — presumably a bonus for all involved — while focusing on the former cuts off any conversation of improving work.

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      Infant car seats are a weird bucket thingy that the babies lounge in because they can’t sit up yet. They fit in a base that hooks into your car, and you can have multiple bases if you have multiple cars, (unless your husband is a jerk and owns a truck and then you have one base for the one car and multiple thoughts about kicking your husband in the shins because you always have to pick up the baby at daycare.)
      And they are usually part of an expensive travel system that includes a stroller that will make you feel like moron because you can’t remember how to unfold it in the middle of the Target parking lot and people are looking at you and they aren’t really judging you, but you’ll feel like they are and you might cry. (Until the day you put it all together with one hand in about 30 seconds and then call your best friend to brag because you are THAT BADASS.)
      If you get one, they stay in this until a certain weight or height and then they get a bigger kid car seat. Which is usually a convertible seat that is rear-facing and then switches to front-facing, but it doesn’t have to be. The switch used to happen after a year, but is now supposed to happen at two years because it’s safer and because they change the damn rules on you all the time. But moms of bigger kids will tell you that, in reality, the switch happens after your kid’s leg get too longer for them to sit comfortably in the rear-facing seat and then they scream their faces off.
      So the travel system is okay, and helpful if you want to be able to carry the kid around in it, or leave him in it to get some quiet time if he falls asleep in the car, but, like pretty much everything other than food and air, it’s not necessary…just like the length of this comment for what was most likely a rhetorical question. Sorry…

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        The graco, right? That happened to me too. Far more embarrassing was the day I was out with my husband, one of his engineer friends and wife, and after 5 minutes still couldn’t figure out how to get the new maxi-cosi stroller to open. It took the engineers about 30 seconds to solve. So embarrassing.

        Strollers, man. I spend so much time thinking about them, and buying new (second hand) ones to try and solve what I hate about the current ones.

        And yet, someone gave us a meh convertible seat that I’m using without a second thought, after a year of using and liking the bucket seat.

        It’s weird what occupies our brains.

        • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

          EFFIN’ GRACO.

          If you would have told past me that a stroller would defeat me to the point that I would almost just go home rather than go into the store, I would have laughed in your face.
          Luckily, I HAD to use the stroller because I couldn’t carry him in the carrier due to my incision, the Target carts are not accommodating to carriers AND I needed formula. I was forced to suck it up. I am now a stroller champ.

          Effin’ strollers in general, man. If the kid would have liked the Mobi, I wouldn’t have even used it…

        • meg

          You guys: THE CITY MINI. It’s like heaven came down and gifted you a $250 stroller that opens and closes with the flick of a wrist, is light enough to carry collapsed in one hand, and menuvers like a dream. He was even in it super wee. We just put the back down so he could lie there.

          Also, I wish I’d gotten the memo that you can’t use a carrier after a c-section. It took six weeks for that to even be a possibility, and I was sad about it. Though… sadly… he’s not that into carriers anyway. He thinks they are ok for 15 minutes, then BULLSHIT.

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            Damn you, Meg! I’m trying to buy a stroller and I’m waffling between a city mini for life and vacation, and a high end umbrella stroller for just vacation. I was sold on the latter, but you’re making me want the former again. (I have a garage, I can own 5 strollers, right? And then have another kid and have to buy double strollers? That seems reasonable, right? No?)

            My kid hated being in any form of carrier, right from the get go. All those wraps and carriers languish in the closet.

        • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

          Non-mother here, but in hopes of passing along info: I worked for a couple years in college with a friend who nannied for twin girls from baby-hood through first-ish grade, and she swore by three-wheeled strollers, in particular for multiple children. Said they were the best at manuevering, hands-down.

          Use this/ignore this as you see fit :-)

          • Liz

            (Pssst- you don’t have to preface motherhood-thoughts with “not a mom!” They’re still valid and valued!)

      • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.net Heather G

        Alyssa, I love your rambling comment(s)!

    • AshleyMeredith

      I feel like there may be something else going on with the “you don’t know if you’ll want to go back to work,” at least in some cases. I definitely do not want to be (and probably will not be capable of being) one of those consumed mothers. And I was SO relieved to read “Bringing up Bebe” and learn that there are whole cultures! where women are expected to continue to be independent and classy after they have kids. (Though to be honest, I have several good examples of that in my circle of acquaintance. Seriously, I wish I looked as put together now as these women do with three kids.)

      That said, I do agree with the Jackie O approach of, “If you mess up your kids, it doesn’t matter what else you do right.” So while I enjoy working, it would depend very much on what kind of care was available for them while I was at work. I am also fine being at home (as proved by 8 months of unemployment) and mostly lean towards staying home with the kid(s), but I don’t know if I would feel trapped spending my whole day with a baby. I’m not all that fond of babies and that’s one of those things that changes for some people and not for others, so how can you know?

  • Manya

    This is lovely Meg, and so many parts of your experience resonated with my own. I love the practicality in your approaches to “what works.” I feel like some new moms get themselves backed into a tiny little corner of no options because they have (for whatever reason) given themselves a very narrow field of possibilities (i.e. not breastfeeding will NEVER EVER be a possibility unless I was undergoing chemotherapy, and in that case I might let the cancer grow before I started giving formula!). At some level some of the self-sacrifice to do what’s the very very very very “best for the baby” starts to feel a bit self-serving (and dare I say it, codependent?). I sometimes feel like it’s more about winning the self-sacrificing mother contest than figuring out a sustainable system where three people inter-exist and thrive.

    I love being a mom, and being a mom is a very fundamental part of my identity. However, being a mom never eclipsed all the rest. It wasn’t simply additive–all other parts of my life and self changed shape and form. Hell, the logistics alone will guarantee seismic shifts! But I have maintained a true and clear sense of self outside of my role as mother. Thank you for sharing yourself and your little with us (even just his little head!). You look beautiful!

    • http://fourfeeteightpaws.blogspot.com/ Rowan

      I agree that the “perfect self sacrificing mother who puts all her kids’ needs above hers” competition is a bit extreme. I read somewhere recently that it is no coincidence that just as women are making strides to become more equal, this ideal mother standard has emerged, which (surprise!) has the affect of keeping women with their kids 24/7.

      • http://seasofgales.wordpress.com/ KH_Tas

        “no coincidence that just as women are making strides to become more equal, this ideal mother standard has emerged, which (surprise!) has the affect of keeping women with their kids 24/7″

        This is the sort of cynicism that I can get behind (i.e., exactly).

    • Manya

      I do want to qualify this by saying that I personally believe there are so many ways to be a really amazing mom, and for some people ascribing to a certain dogma about it may be joyful and help make the universe of choices feel more manageable. What hurts me is to see my friends suffering and feeling like they have no choices because of self-inflicted pressure to do it to a particular dogmatic standard.

      • KC

        I agree – and I think this works with a lot of things from weddings to college choices to babies. “My choice is the only right choice” makes some people feel less uncertain and frenetic; others do fine with “this is the choice I have made, so I don’t have to continually reassess and drive myself crazy, but some other choices are probably fine, too”. I’m thinking some of this may boil down to which kind of decider you are and how much uncertainty you can tolerate, plus how confident you are about the “field” that the choice is being made in general?

        • Marina

          For me it’s different with different topics too. Breastfeeding vs formula feeding I can talk about all day without an inch of defensiveness, while talking about sleep training for 30 seconds makes me feel super anxious and judgmental.

          • KC

            No kids here, but with other life choice things I’ve experienced the same sort of thing with different issues (although probably less! it seems like kid decisions are amplified), and it has seemed to mostly boil down to some function of how much I feel under attack on that issue in general, how confident I feel about the decision, and how important I deem getting it right to be. (more people judging me on it = more jumpy; less confident = more jumpy; this-could-have-super-real-consequences = more jumpy)

            Is this at all similar to your experience? Wondering how weird/not weird I am. :-)

    • meg

      Funny. I was dealing with guilt about something last week, and Maddie pointed out the guilt was about the perfect mother ego contest, not about what was best for the kid. She was SO RIGHT.

      • Manya

        Yes, this is exactly it, Meg. Well said Maddie.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I have this theory developing just this week: Pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care have become women’s counterpart to the physical hazing rites of passage traditionally associated with men. Obviously, women have always gone through pregnancy, etc., but I think they’ve more recently developed sociologically into women’s counterpart to various painful initiation rites cultures have otherwise left to men. So, like men who brag or are known in the village for walking across hot coals, or getting tattoos, or getting other scars, or not even wincing at their adult circumcisions, or any of the stories that come out of fraternities or just Boy Scouts – women are now boasting about how hard the beginning of motherhood is. It’s actually a kind of twisted feminism.

  • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

    Bookmarked, forwarded to husband. Check, check.

    Many thanks to Meg for sharing and Maddie for facilitating. I loved this. Can’t wait for Part 2!

  • Carrie

    Oh, you ladies have no idea how much I needed this today. Thanks!

  • http://www.laughterinthelou.com Emma

    Thank you!

  • Diana

    Actually us Canucks can take up to a year of maternity leave. Not everyone opts to take all the time available as it is a pretty significant pay cut (about half).

    Some couples split it so one takes the first six months, and the second can take the second six months. (Usually with the gestational parent going first)

    • meg

      Ah yes, I did fact check. Not in Quebec though, and all my friends are there.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        Yeah, but Quebec is like, it’s own little nation-state, and every few decades a faction tries to become their own actual state. You can’t talk about Quebec and call it Canada. The rest of us, and our laws, outnumber and outnormal them. :)

      • Kate

        In Quebec, parental and maternity leave can be combined for a total of 50 weeks, which is basically a year (not 9 months).

        http://www.rqap.gouv.qc.ca/travailleur_salarie/choix_en.asp

  • http://buffalowrites.com Laura

    “The baby and I are both extroverts, we were both getting bored.”

    I realize this is a weird thing to jump out at me, but I’m super intrigued with extroversion/introversion, so…is this normal? Can you really tell if a baby is an extrovert or introvert when they’re just a couple months old? Because if so, FASCINATING.

    Also, thank you for this interview. It’s reassuring, in many ways.

    • http://andwontonmakesthree.wordpress.com Heather

      I would say to an extent you can tell – our baby is also an extrovert. He has always thrived at day care and when we’re homebound for too long, we both get bored and cranky. Our kiddo is almost a year old and we haven’t dealt with separation anxiety yet – he warms up to strangers pretty quickly and loves other kids. Whether it’s actual introversion or extroversion – who knows, maybe it’ll change, but all babies are different. :)

    • Gigi59

      I really do believe that you can tell whether a baby is extroverted or not right from the beginning. Just based on watching my niece & nephew, she was always reserved and unemotional with strangers and he was obviously more comfortable with people from the time they were infants. That difference between them has carried right through elementary school.

    • meg

      Oh, we could tell from about day two, and firmly by two weeks. But by now his full fledged personality is here. He makes jokes, tells stories, etc. So by now OF COURSE you can tell.

      • Class of 1980

        I knew your baby was going to be an extrovert. I just knew it.

        And when you said recently that he likes to sit on your lap so he can look around, that proved it. And he’s a Sagittarius. ;)

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      Oh HELL YES. Fear of strangers normally hits between 8-14 months, ish. My kid? At 13 weeks old, would scream hysterically if Grandma tried to hold her. At 13 months old, she is SLOW to warm up to people – like, a month of daycare until she stopped screaming every morning, and she still needs at least half an hour of seeing Grandma before she will go to her without crying. She’s smart and gregarious and totally physically fearless, but she’s simply a shy introvert. Totally answered some nature/nurture questions for me.

      • meg

        Other than manners and civilizing (my job) it’s all nature. Doing daycare since forever made me know that from the get go. They come out how they come out. I teach them to say please and thank you.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          EXACTLY TIMES A ZILLION.

          Figuring that out totally freed me to dial down my worry about, well, most things, and just enjoy her. We tried to teach her sign language, she wouldn’t participate, so we stopped. She’s all physical and less lingual, and while my friends babies can tell you what noises all the animals make, my kid has scaled their couch and it making a break for it. Nature means I don’t have to worry, and can trust she’ll figure out animal sounds eventually.

          • meg

            Or not. Because animal sounds are so useful in grown up life ;)

          • kc

            But… but… how could you teach animal sounds to your baby if you didn’t know animal sounds??? ;-)

    • Marina

      I could tell from about 6 months that mine was an extrovert. She got fussy when she was at home for long periods of time and was happiest around large groups of people. Thinking back it may have been apparent even earlier. At a couple weeks old the best way of soothing her to sleep was bringing her to a noisy coffee shop.

    • Anonymous

      I just recently read the book Quiet – The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain and there’s a chapter where it speaks to knowing if your baby is extroverted or introverted. As i recall, if your baby is highly reactive to stimulation (seeing new faces, new environments, etc.), they are more sensitive and thus more likely to be introverts where as if they don’t react to much stimulation, they are extroverts.

      • http://buffalowrites.com Laura

        I loved that book! Forgot about that chapter. So interesting…it’s like they’re little people!

        ….oh wait.

        • Liz

          The number of times I exclaim, “HE’S SUCH A PERSON!” to my husband, about our son, is just embarrassing.

      • Class of 1980

        I love that book. Everyone should just go ahead and read it. Society would be so much better off with real understanding.

  • Christa

    Meg,
    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

    Thanks for sharing. Babies for me will likely not happen for another 5-6 years but these are worries that, I think, all women have and it is good to hear rational, honest answers.

    Sent this article to my friend who is having a baby at the end of May! I like it when my friends have babies because it gives me an excuse to shop for baby stuff, which is ADORABLE and I love shopping for it…but have no desire to have a baby anytime soon.

    I do wish our country would alter its maternity/paternity leave laws, it is extremely infuriating and it grosses me out when I see statistics comparing everywhere else to us. I work for a small non-profit and there is no maternity leave, but we are “allowed” to save up to 60 paid sick days and use them as we please. So, you know, if you work here and are planning to have a baby you should basically not get sick at all ever so you can save all your days! We have no work from home policy either, so that’s fun. This is all very not cool, especially since the staff is essentially all women (granted only four of us are pre-menopausal and only one of us will be having kids in the next 2-3 years but still, it would be nice if some solidarity were shown).

    • Class of 1980

      Well, even if our country had laws requiring paid maternity/paternity leave, it likely wouldn’t apply to small businesses … simply because they couldn’t afford it. You need a fairly large company for it to work.

      • alana

        Not so – you could have government-funded paid parental leave! Doesn’t cost the company a cent (though is a pain in the arse to find replacements etc).

  • Hintzy

    Thank youuuuu! Oh man such good info and perspective, I so very appreciate that honesty, because so much of what I feel is out there does seem damaging and fear mongering. I’m probably going to end up quoting both the “I am not a dogmatic person” and prending both feet are broken to practice for what might be in my life….

  • Anne

    Thanks for this. We’re not anywhere near ready to have kids, but the things I think about are the gender issues. We have a very equal partnership at the moment, but my job (academia) is inherently more flexible than my husband’s (8:30-5:30 office), and I worry that this situation will lead to us being unable to share some duties, like picking a kid up at daycare. Add to that, I’m the primary cook in our house — because I love it and it’s a way to de-stress, but still. Now, my husband does WAY more of the cleaning as a result, but those balance issues are some of the things that make me unsure about having kids.

    • Cleo

      “I’m the primary cook in our house — because I love it and it’s a way to de-stress, but still.”

      YES! This is what I worry about too, because for me, being the primary cook means being the grocery shopper (if my guy had to go grocery shopping, I would be on the phone with him the entire time, walking him through everything from which brand of soy sauce to buy to how to choose a head of lettuce to where to find the aluminum foil). Plus, I like it.

      My thought is that when we have kids, my grocery shopping and cooking time will become my guy’s bonding time with the baby and my way to take a break. I hope.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        I LOVE going grocery shopping. I leave the kid and husband at home, bring my ipod, enjoy the alone time. (Is that lame? All I know is I look forwards to it.)

        Sometimes I cook with my 13 month old in the kitchen with me (she likes watching) and sometimes she hangs out with my husband on another floor. I like both.

        You’re not wrong about it being a nice break.

        • Cleo

          Definitely not lame. I bring my iPod into the store, listen to my Podcast du jour (currently, Stuff You Missed in History Class) and tune out the world. It’s very relaxing

      • meg

        If you get pregnant, have him practice in the store, is my advice. You need both people (particularly the one not giving birth) to be able to function doing stuff. For awhile there I was feeding him or trying to sleep. There was no take a break time, persay, and if there was, you can bet I wasn’t going to use it grocery shopping ;)

        And then it gets better. But getting them all skilled up really won’t hurt.

    • Liz

      The one thing I’ve noticed about gender equality and being an egalitarian household and “coparenting” things in my house, is that the kid doesn’t factor into “duties” the way, for example, cleaning the litter box does. “Parenting” isn’t on the to-do list to divvy up. So, even though my working situation is more “flexible” (I’m a work-from-home-mom, with the kid all day, except for a few hours a week that I work outside the home) and I spend the majority of time with the kid, the “chores” that go along with kid-having are very evenly shared where possible. There isn’t a designated “diaper person” the way there is a designated “carry out the trash person.” Just, whoever’s in the vicinity.

      From my observational experience, couples that struggle most with the mom taking on the brunt of everything are couples wherein “kids” are listed among the duties and divided as such. Oh, you’re home all day? Then you’re the kid-person, and whenever the kid needs anything, it’s your responsibility.

      You’ll notice those are the same folks who say dad is “babysitting” when he’s home alone with the kids.

      • Jessica B

        Nothing enrages me more than when a father says he is babysitting.

        • Class of 1980

          Me too.

          My sister’s ex-husband used to say that. They got a divorce. Lopsided chores are actually a predictor of divorce.

      • meg

        Though! I will say! David changed every single diaper for at least a month. The deal ended up being I was spending my life handling input, he handled output. And he’s still the diaper person, sort of to make up for all the time I spend feeding. It works out nicely, and means we both get little breaks.

        But I think we generally try not to think of taking care of our kid as chores. That helps for sure.

        • Mmouse

          In our house we say I take care of the top half and my husband takes care of the bottom half! I like input/output though. If you’re nursing, that takes up so much time in the beginning, so a diaper change seems like such a luxurious break! And now my husband still does most of the diapers (although I do other chores now, instead of taking some personal moments).

    • Denzi

      The hilarious thing (in a terribly gendered way) is I know a lot of male academics who would say their job is very intense and NOT flexible, and a wife with a 9-5 job has more “flexibility.”

      Ugh, I cannot find the study (can you tell I’m from a household of academics), but there was a study that asked people about the perceived flexibility of a medical doctor and an academic as parents. And for both variations (mom is MD, dad is academic; mom is academic, dad is MD), people perceived the woman’s job as more flexible. So…this is a thing that I worry about a lot.

      I think my husband and I have a ways to go for him to value my career enough to realize that all jobs (well, most jobs, in the U.S.) have some degree of flexibility, and have some degree of being-flexible-to-be-a-parent = taking the hit. And that just because “taking the hit” for a mom comes more in the form of mommy-tracking than direct disapproval doesn’t mean that mom’s job is more flexible.

      (Rant over.)

  • http://doux-style.blogspot.com Hannah

    Just thanks. Years ago I wrote Meg a thank you note for being a big sister, doing it all before me and reporting back. Now I’m glad that Meg is still one step ahead, reporting back and reminding me not to fear.

    • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

      I haven’t written that note. But I should. Maddie’s quote Over the past few years APW has played the role for me of best friend’s big sister, who will tell it like it is. is EXACTLY it.

      Meg, thank you for sharing. And thank you for nurturing a community of big sisters

      Maddie, thanks for representing the younger sisters and all the questions we have.

    • meg

      <3 Hannah.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

    I was particularly fascinated by the comments about the baby seat as well. I have a lot of problems with my back and joints and I’m trying to get into the best shape I can be in before the baby comes, but at my age, and with the problems I have now, I just won’t be able sometimes to do everything I’ll want to do with my kid. The idea that you totally don’t HAVE to lug your kid around in a carrier weighing an additional 10 – 20lbs was the eye opener I needed, so thank you!

    Like with wedding planning, its so helpful to have things pointed out to you in a way that puts you more in control and removes the social stigma of “you have to have this when you have a kid!” I didn’t “need” a guest book or a bouquet toss for my wedding and I don’t need a baby carrier or clips to keep the binky attached to the baby unless I want them. Thanks APW and thanks Meg!

    • Ali

      Agreed wholeheartedly. However, from the nanny’s perspective — those binky clips are an absolute lifesaver!! Some babies are totally fine without binkys at all though, so it obviously depends. (Except I call them “nins”) :]

      • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

        To be honest, I think I’d totally use binky clips too (my besty is a nanny so I’ve learned from the best). I think it was more the reminder that we don’t have to consume everything just because everyone else does, that I so appreciated. I plan on getting all or most of my baby furniture as hand me downs or at the goodwill. Of course I’ve already heard shocked and disgusted comments on this plan but like with the wedding, APW helps me feel confident in doing what is right for me, not what everyone else does.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          Hand me downs for the win! We had to buy, um, a small ikea storage unit, and that was it for furniture for the kid. (And that one was only only because I wanted one NOW instead of waiting to find one on kijii.) There are a few things I personally would be hesitant to buy from a stranger, but I’m happy to use things like old car seats from friends. I think we spent about as much total on birthing and provisioning our kid for the first 6 months of life (including my beloved cloth diapers) as one of my friends spent on her crib. I’m pretty happy with my choices.

          Also, between you and me, I love that we have an older style crib because the sides lower, and that way I can actually REACH the mattress. I am short, and even on tip toes with the railing lowered, it’s a stretch to put her to bed. If it was the new kind, it’s just sort of have to like, drop her in there.

    • One more sara

      Um you dont even need the binky… I was crazy paranoid about nipple confusion and other things that might hinder breastfeeding bc of problems we had the first few days, so i didnt offer a paci until like one or two months. Poor kid had no idea what to do with it and i never tried again. I figured it was one less thing i had to do later. (*disclaimer: i dont think that pacis/binkies are evil, so my intention is not to shame parents who do give binkies. Im just saying babies dont *need* binkies.)

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        And some kids just don’t care. I never pushed it or encouraged her to sleep with one, but would give my kid one occasionally. (After multiple tongue tie snips and breastfeeding issues, I wasn’t super keen on them.) She never really cared. She’s become a champion finger sucker through, and when I mentioned that to my doctor, he laughed and said he highly encourages thumb sucking over pacifiers, because you never have to get out of bed to put it back in their mouths. And it’s cute to watch her solemnly sitting there sucking her middle fingers judging the world with her eyes.

        I was just glad because it meant there was one less thing I had to buy and clean and take care of.

      • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

        OMG! Seriously?! This is exactly the kind of stuff I am so fascinated by. Not to sound weird, (which usually means I’m gonna say something weird) but my husband and I are currently fascinated by ancient man, the way the species evolved, when consciousness occurred, etc. and something we talk about is trying to treat our bodies like they are designed to be treated: i.e. eating well, exercising, etc. I’d like to figure out what are the basics you kind of NEED to do with a kid and then accept everything after that is on a “as you want” basis. I thought binkies were to stop the kid from crying constantly. If you’re telling me I could simply never introduce them and therefore eliminate all the cost/cleaning/losing/finding/weaning issues that arise from them and I’m not going to have to listen to the baby howling constantly nor cause the baby some lasting harm, I’m in!

        • meg

          Depends on your kid, just point blank. Pacifiers cut out hours of crying early on, and mamma didn’t raise any fools. I used that shit. Now, he likes his fingers, which is cool by me.

          And CLEANING them? Pshaw. Treat the kid like a fourth kid. Did he drop it in dog poop? No? Great, then it’s just an immune system boost.

          • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

            THAAAAAAAAANK YOU. Kids survived the middle ages when medicine was nonsense and germs were everywhere. IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOST FOR THE WIN. TRUTH.

          • KC

            There are probably more germs on the parents’ skin at any given time (from things like doorknobs and from just general skin cultures) than a pacifier is going to pick up off a floor or sidewalk (barring, like, a recent raw-chicken spill or, yes, dog poop, or something). And if babysitting infants tells me anything, it is that many babies glomp onto any part of anything they can get at, including hands, faces, ears, hair, clothing, furniture, portions of carseat, especially while teething… it’s not like sanitizing the pacifier is likely doing that much for their total dirt/germ exposure. (that said, I do follow “house rules” for sanitizing stuff, etc., when babysitting. And if I had a kid, and was out in public, there are decent odds that I’d swap pacifiers if reasonable, just to dodge the shocked-and-appalled people.)

            “Treat your child like a fourth child” sounds like a great goal in general! :-)

        • Liz

          It’s a comfort thing (so, sort-of-kind-of “to stop the kid from crying constantly”). Like everything else, different things work for different small ones who are adjusting to being without the comfort of mama’s uterus. Some babies and parents use binkies, some use blankies or teddies, some work out constant-mom-snuggling.

          We didn’t plan on binky (mama’s got gross teeth- let’s try to save baby from the same) but someone had given us one at the shower, and it was stashed in a drawer in the nursery. One especially trying night, where nothing else seemed to comfort him, it came in handy. But he didn’t use it for very long before we were able to wean him off.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          My kid preferred my little finger Or my boob, if we’re being honest. But she wasn’t a huge screamer, even as a newborn. The times we used a paci were during her rare-ish uncalmable meltdowns, when I needed to not be near her.

          But if you think about, early man hardly had little plastic sucking nubs, right? They had nipples. And more free time.

          • One More Sara

            “They had nipples. And more free time.” <3

          • lmba

            Yep, my understanding is that all babies suckle for comfort to some degree, but some kids need it way more than is practical for the breastfeeding parent to provide while still, um, doing things besides having someone sucking on her nipples. Enter: pacifiers. If your kid doesn’t need a ton of comfort suckling, then she/he will probably be content with what happens at feeding time.

      • Marina

        From the other side of the spectrum, I never intended to give my baby a pacifier… and ended up giving one at around a month old and it was a complete lifesaver. Pacifier, swaddle, and white noise was like opium for my baby, it was insane. It felt like I had found a cheat code.

        • KC

          If only each baby came with a page full of cheat codes for each of the hard parts! The people who want to do motherhood on “hard” setting still could, but everyone else would at least have the reassurance of knowing that there’s an “out” if they’re getting to the end of their rope.

          • Marina

            The weird thing is that sometimes I think there are cheat codes. It seems somewhat random whether any given cheat code works with any particular child, but… well, for instance, my brother works with toddlers as his day job, and he has these magical phrases he uses that convince my toddler to do what he wants after I’ve been spending hours trying everything I can think of with no success. It’s why I feel like raising children in community is so important for me. Going it alone and figuring it out as you go is the “hard” setting, crowdsourcing the cheat codes makes it so much easier.

      • Ashleyn

        My mom loves to tell the story of how when she tried to give me my first pacifier I literally spat it across the room. She was like, ok, guess she doesn’t need this.

        • http://dayzeroproject.com/user/mlisunderstanding/list/40045 Remy

          Ha! My little sister was like that, apparently. My parents had stocked up when they were expecting her, because I had LOVED my pacifiers… and she wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

          • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

            It seems that, like a bottle of vodka for just regular emergencies, having at least one pacifier on hand when you have a newborn could potentially save lives. Good to know.

    • meg

      You know: when I was a kid, they didn’t even HAVE baby carriers. They only showed up in time for my four years younger sister, and my mom thought they were “heavy and stupid.” So yes, people have been carrying their babies in their arms or in a sling since the dawn of time. It’s totally fine.

      And I didn’t even know about binky clips till last week, when daycare suggested it might help not loosing his. I didn’t believe in nipple confusion because the kid was in NICU, he was on formula right away, and not by choice. He was also a champ breastfeeder, so yeah. So he’s used a pacifier, but he doesn’t use it tons. Kids tell you what they want.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        In Canada, in 1981, they had these giant government provided “bub seats”. My mother was pleased at how much lighter (and with handles!) things have become.

        And it was still too heavy for me to lift for at least a month after J was born, due to the c-section.

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      I have back and shoulder problems and have watched women without such problems awkwardly try to lug infant seats around and known for years we wouldn’t even look at them. There would be no point. I wouldn’t be able to carry the darn thing.

      Someone tried a “you’ll see” on me when I told them we weren’t getting an infant seat, telling me our newborn would look too small in a convertible seat and so we’d want the infant seat. Um, newborns ARE small.

      • meg

        Maybe THEY’LL see. It’s weird. When I pick him up from daycare, all the other kids are being strapped into contraptions to be walked 20 feet from the car. I just… pick him up? He’s heavy enough on his own, I don’t need all that lugging. Besides, independent one… he’d be so mad if I strapped him in lying down to carry him around. SO MAD.

  • http://fourfeeteightpaws.blogspot.com/ Rowan

    This: the “final piece is sort of the way the world views it. It got much harder for us when he went back to work, because there’s a work culture where men are expected to have less primary responsibility. I also have a flexible job, but I think even if I did not have a flexible job, this would happen—because there’s this assumption that the woman’s job is always going to be more flexible.”

    We need to work on this. Period. I recently read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and she made the same point twice: we will truly be equal when 50% of the leadership positions are filled by women and 50% of our homes are led by men. Let’s strive for that. Sexism hurts and limits men too.

    • Rachel

      I agree. I just read an interesting perspective on Lean In by the Harvard Business Review. The author questions whether women need to act more like men to succeed in business, or if men need to prioritize their family life more like women.
      I want men to have an equal opportunity to be fully invested and involved parents.
      http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/04/its_not_women_who_should_lean.html
      I feel like my husband has to deal with more sexism when he packs my lunch than when I take that lunch and support our family.

  • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

    Just like the book, I am totally miffed that this comes after I’ve had a kid. I’m bookmarking this for my friends in the future when they get pregnant; this is the best antidote to the crazy shit I read while pregnant. Awesome, ladies, just awesome.

    • meg

      Whatever Alyssa. I QUOTED YOU. So there would have to be a black hole of time travel for this to come out before you had a kid.

      • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

        Don’t think I didn’t get a little excited about that. (There may have been chair dancing.)
        And, as much as I want to pretend that was me, I was quoting someone else whose name I can’t remember. Just wanted to point that out before someone pointed it out for me and was like, “That heifer thinks she’s so smart, but she copied it from HERE.”
        I’m a total copier.

  • Margaret

    I hate to be a downer, but technically some women don’t survive the sleep deprivation when they suffer from PPD and commit suicide.

    • http://www.kindofamess.com Alyssa

      But that would be due to the women having larger issues, not just PPD and sleep deprivation. I just need to point out, because it wasn’t pointed out enough for me and it made things MUCH worse, that there is a huge difference between post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. All those horror stories you hear about women suffering and doing things completely out of character or dangerous or fatal? Post-partum psychosis. And there is a difference in baby blues and post-partum depression. (And there’s even PARTUM-depression, which is before the baby is born. Bodies suck.) This site (http://www.postpartumprogress.com) was really helpful when I wasn’t sure if I had baby blues or post-partum depression.
      Post-partum hormones and hormones in general are SUPER complicated and boiling it down that spreads more fear than it helps. We need to elaborate and show it’s bigger than that, because being scared about having post-partum depression (and that you’ll be so tired you’ll kill yourself) is pretty damaging when you’re already uncertain about the changes your life and body are going through.

      • Leanne

        (technically, a person with postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis could commit suicide; one can be out of character and making poor choices in their behaviors without meeting diagnostic criteria for a psychotic episode.)

    • meg

      I actually know a shit ton about this, because I had dangerously severe Partum Depression. It’s important, and it needs to be talked about, but we need to be clear that it has absolutely ZERO to do with sleep deprivation. That’s part of the myth: oh, you’re just tired. No, you’re not tired. Your hormones are dangerously out of whack. It’s a medical condition, not a situational condition.

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      I had PPD. I had PPD that started to veer in to post partum psychosis. THESE THINGS ARE NOT NORMAL. I was braced for PPD, due to my personal history, and made damn sure my support system knew about it. I had excellent medical support, and while I chose to avoid drugs, they are a blessing for those who need them. I also have had sleep deprivation issues, as my kid goes through sleep regressions and the like. They are not the same at all.

      PPD is not from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can make PPD much worse, that is true, but it cannot cause it.

      I got mine within hours of my child’s birth – long before the sleep deprivation. PPD and PPS are largely hormonal. Sleep deprivation is, well, exhaustion, and can often be cured by taking more naps and sharing the night shift. PPD can be cured with drugs and talking and time and support and PPS needs support and drugs and talking. Calling the three the same is a dangerously unfair message.

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        PPD and PPP, not PPS. I think I spell psychosis starting with an s in my head.

        • Paranoid Libra

          You’re not alone as I followed along without even batting an eyelash as to the alphabet soup there. I did however just sit there going PPP whaaa-aattt? before finish reading the comment.

  • Kaitlin

    “Thank God I’m not British because if I were British I would have felt huge pressure to stay home for a year.”

    THIS.

    In my circle, the women all work for the government and get a year off and, really, I don’t think I want that. But, it’s assumed that I will.

    • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

      See, I think I would just be glad to have the option. PARTICULARLY if it’s a truly egalitarian family leave act, where both parents (or a single parent and a helper?) could be able to take time off, together or alone, for more than the paltry-ass six weeks we’re “allowed” (unpaid). I wouldn’t take a year off from work, because I know me, and I’d flounder when I got back, but I’d love to have been able to take, say, three months while my partner took another three months.

      • KC

        In general, options people want to take make life easier. (yay, this store carries the laundry detergent I’m not allergic to!)

        Options they don’t want to take make some peoples’ lives harder. (making decisions; defending decisions; facing down social pressure and self-doubt)

        Unfortunately, we can’t just distribute options to only those who want them, so… yeah.

      • Caroline

        Oh man, I would LOVE for my partner to be able to take most of a year off. I’d love a little more than the six weeks or so, and then I’d love for him to stay home for a while. If we can afford it when we have kids, I think that’s what we’ll do, but since him staying home for months probably means losing his job, likely won’t happen.

  • http://www.asafemooring.blogspot.com Kirsty

    There is so much useful goodness in this, but my overwhelming feeling after reading it is DAMN, I have got to get back to San Francisco for more drinks with Meg. (And Maddie too. I want to see these eyebrows.)

    • Maddie

      You’re too kind. The eyebrows are a mess right now, but I’ll be sure to fix that before you come to visit. :)

  • http://thedailyfifteen.wordpress.com/ Brandi

    Meg, thanks for talking about your priorities in reference to your desires. I think that gets lost a lot when talking new parenthood, it’s all about the baby.

  • Marina

    “So I sort of worked it out by doing what was logical.”

    It took me months to realize this was a reasonable way to parent. Months!

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Seems like the “you’ll see” and “just wait” people never go away. They were there when we got engaged. They’re still around now that we’re pregnant. We’re just waiting to see and verify that our lives really aren’t their lives like they seem to think.

  • Tegan

    “…you can be tired, or tired and mad about it.” This is so true. The best thing I could do for myself in the newborn phase was to tell myself “This little person is your job right now. Time to start the night shift.” If I expected to be up at night, I could take it in stride. If I expected I might get some sleep and then I didn’t? Well, there is nothing quite so unfortunate as the rage which can accompany a 4 a.m. dashing of hopes.

    • Lauren

      THIS RIGHT HERE. I dealt with the initial up-every-three-hours for a 45 minutes feeding thing GREAT. For over a year. It was easy. I was tired, but not toooo tired.

      My daughter is now two. She still doesn’t sleep reliably. She still takes AT LEAST 45 minutes to get back to sleep. And I am constantly exhausted and frustrated and angry about it because of this line “If I expected I might get some sleep and then I didn’t? Well, there is nothing quite so unfortunate as the rage which can accompany a 4 a.m. dashing of hopes.”

  • Anonymous Today

    Thank you so much for this, Meg and Maddie!

    Earlier this year, my husband and I decided that we’d start trying for a baby in May. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been absolutely freaking the freak out. Yesterday, I told him that I’m not ready quite yet. It was a big disappointment to him, because he’s wanted a baby for a while now, but he is committed to us being on the same page. This post has helped assuage some of my fears. I still think I need a bit more time, but your account makes me think maybe I can actually take this next step and not have my life and marriage totally destruct.

  • Jessica B

    I’m book marking this, and the next installment, for when my dude and I start thinking about having kids. I have so much anxiety about children, about screwing them up, about being pregnant, about having gender norms thrust upon me because of what is in my uterus, about feeling the pressure to be primary care taker and do my usual amount of housework/regular work. This is the first thing that has made me feel less anxious about that thing that is 5-7 years down the road.

    I do have a question about when your friends become mothers, though, and it does actually seem to eat their personalities. I went out to brunch with some women in my family and my fiance’s family, and my future sister-in-law would not stop talking about her child. Her year and a half year old who still doesn’t talk and apparently makes the same 4 noises that her mother loves to shout out in a restaurant. She wouldn’t talk about anything else for more than 3 minutes at a time, and when she did she managed to relate it back to her child. This is something my fiance has also commented on several times.

    She used to be a person who could talk about a variety of things, but now it’s all about baby. Other readers, have you had friends or family get eaten by the cult of their children? How do you ‘deal’ or ‘manage’ with this sort of thing? I want to be polite, and I love my niece-to-be, but not to the point where every conversation needs to be about her making a single noise.

    • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

      I think it’s really hard when you are going through huge life changes (be it having a kid, losing your job, getting married, getting divorced, buying a house, etc) to not let that consume you and the topics of conversation. I mean, it’s very annoying – I totally get that – but for most people, big life changes sort of take over their life and it can be very hard to focus on anything else, even if it’s something seemingly silly and fun.

      I have a set of friends for whom I am the only one with a kid – most of them are decidedly child free and the others aren’t yet at the baby-making stage in their lives yet. And I’m constantly aware that if I talk about my kid or bring my kid to events, they may get annoyed. So on the one hand, I do try not to go ON AND ON about the kid, but on the other . . . well, my kid is important to me, and sometimes I am going to talk about her. I just don’t dominate the conversation (just like I wouldn’t if I were talking about my job or my house search or my wedding or whatever).

      • Jessica B

        On behalf of all childless friends, I thank you for keeping that in mind when you’re updating people about your life, and say that as a friend I’m happy to hear about your life, as long as you’re also happy to hear about my life. I’m definitely interested in the baby, she’s adorable and lovely and a big part of my fiance’s family. I’m just worried about my future SIL because she doesn’t seem to be aware how much she talks about her baby, and how relating everything back to her child should the topic veer off the baby is getting repetitive to others in the family.

        I don’t want to be that horrid person who says “OK, no more talking about the baby for 15 minutes’ because that would be weird and controlling, but I almost want to present it as a challenge the next time we all get together because I don’t think they would be able to do it for more than 5 minutes. I’m wondering, is there a way to gently present the fact that we should be able to talk about other things as adults without sounding mean?

        • Liz

          A friend and I have been talking about this a lot. Because if you don’t personally have that… self-awareness? It’s hard to have someone point it out to you (that you’re being annoying and redundant), and then be able to take it well.

          If you’re not close with SIL, I wouldn’t broach it. But, you may be able to do what you can to steer the conversation a bit. If she has a sense of humor about herself, I mean, I guess you could make a joke out of it. In my mind, basically any form of, “Can we talk about something other than your brat?” or, “Wow, you really talk about your kid a lot!” will most likely be met with defensiveness. And/or, “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE KIDS THEY ARE MY WORLDDD.”

          But if someone else has had better luck- PLEASE! Jump in.

        • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

          What if you arranged a double-date or a girls night and make a big deal out of “I know you’re probably SO exhausted from parenting little munchkin, so as a gift, I would love to treat you to an adult evening of entertainment- No kids! No cartoons! No diapers! No spit-up! Let’s dress up and get fancy, and be thankful we can have cocktails!” I think if you frame the evening around this is my gift to you, because I know you’re probably sick of Barney! Then it might jar her out of her pattern without seeming like an indictment. Then you can gently, jokingly remind her that evening, “ah, ah, remember, no kids tonight! We’re simply carefree adults about town!”

          It may not be a long-term solution, but it may be enough to make her think about her usual patterns.

          • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

            Yeah, this could work!

            Also, it’s been my experience that a lot of people who talk constantly about their kids are actually super worried about them or seeking validation (it can be especially hard if they don’t have people around who can reassure them that their kid is fine, even if s/he isn’t walking at one, etc), so her constant discussion of the baby might really be a way for her to talk through her fears.

          • Jessica B

            I like this plan, and will probably push so it can happen.

        • One More Sara

          I think there are 3 ways to handle this. #1: grit your teeth and bear it. Hope that she grows out of it, or at least that the stories get more interesting as the kid learns some words (mine just went to bed singing a song about Santa Claus having poop on his face. You can’t make this stuff up). #2 Gently change the subject to things that the mom used to like talking about. Have you seen [latest cool movie]? Have you heard about [this current event]? Those interests are probably still in there, but have maybe gone a bit dormant since baby arrived. *Bonus points: buy her a gift that might serve to re-ignite that interest, for a birthday or just because it made you think of her. #3 If you have a good relationship with SIL, maybe talk about it in private, or at least at an outing with just the two of you. This option is also probably the most likely to blow up, so proceed with caution.

        • http://breadandcheeseplease.com Charise

          Yes, yes, yes! In one group of my friends, I am the ONLY one without kids. I love hearing about their kids – it is a huge part of their lives, and I care about the well-being of the kiddos, too. But sometimes, people forget to ask how things are going in MY life, as if there could possibly be anything besides children and parenting to talk about. It is always nice when the conversation is balanced.

    • Paranoid Libra

      To me it sounds like she is afraid that something is wrong with her daughter and instead of just blanantly saying it she is trying to get someone to say something to her. She sounds worried and scared and in a bit of denial about something potentially being wrong with her child.

      What SarahE said just a smidge above me I think could be a great way to handle part of it but also mention something like “oh soon to be SIL I understand your concern about lack of trying to real talk and I really hope you brought these concerns up to her doctor as we as a family all want her to be healthy, but for tonight we are having a relaxing adult evening as I think you need a little reprieve from the stress worry about her. We love her, but we also love you just as much want to make sure you have fun too. When Mommy can relax both mom and baby can be happier.”

      • Jessica B

        Re-reading my post it would sound like there is something to be worried about (not talking at 20 months?) but the parents have taught her baby sign language, which is one of the main sub topics of discussion under “baby.” Because the kid can communicate what she wants through the words she can sign, and the parents fill in the rest through non-verbal communication, she has no real need to speak right now. Future SIL is also a pediatric nurse, so she would (hopefully) know if something was up.

        What my fiance and I have kind of decided is that the child is just the shiny new baby, the first grandchild on both sides, and SIL has gotten used to only talking about the baby because that’s what the family wanted to talk about for the first few months, and it’s the pattern we’ve all fallen into. I have suggested double dates, the girls’ brunch, and other baby-free events, but it might be one of those things that until another in the family has a child, this is what we’ll talk about. I do appreciate the girls night suggestions, and the possibility that she might be worried about something (because I never would have thought about that one!). We are also not close enough for me to know her other interests/hobbies that well, and the fiance doesn’t want to start waves by saying what’s on his mind.

        Again, thank you everyone! It was just nice to be able to bounce ideas out there from people who may have gone/are going through the same thing.

        • p.

          It probably depends on the relationship you have with your sister in law, but you could try asking her something like, “Aside from parenting, how are you doing these days?”. I have noticed that once my friends become parents, many people stop asking parents about themselves and only ask about their kids, and that may set up the expectation for people like your sister in law that other people only want to hear about kids.

          Or if there’s a topic you remember talking to her about before kids, maybe bring that up as a way to jog her memory about the things she used to talk about or think about. “Remember when we talked about X, I was thinking…” or “Are you still reading these books/watching these movies?”

    • meg

      Sometimes it eats people’s personalities. And it sucks. Friends I’ve kept are ones who have kept a hold on themselves as well. That said, it’s a balance. For example, sometimes I feel like people don’t get the fact that I work, so I tend to want to be with my kid on nights and weekends. Because, you know, I LIKE him. He’s one of the two most important people in my life. So that’s an interesting balance these days. Like, yes, I do want girl time now and then, but I don’t want to lose precious hours with my baby. But that’s a little different. The motherhood eating people’s head thing is culturally encouraged, and something I personally don’t like at all.

      (Though, to be clear, I do agree that she sounds worried about her kid. Which is really fair… and may be a cry for help.)

      • Jessica B

        I’m glad you like your baby. In general most babies are likable, and I get that your own is something special =)

        • meg

          I like him as a person though, also, not just as my baby (though I love him as that a lot). He’s a great little person.

  • Suz M.

    Still combing through all the comments…I’m currently 16 weeks pregnant so this is all fascinating to me. Anyway, just wanted to add that I discovered a new favorite podcast, all about motherhood and supporting each other and not judging and complaining and being honest and all things I think APW readers would love. It’s called One Bad Mother — I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone considering getting pregnant, currently pregnant or already a mother.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

    I may be the odd man out here, but my HUSBAND is the one who is encouraging us to get in shape and get the house cleaned with a routine in place before a kid comes and throws everything out of whack. It honestly never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have to do everything by myself, (due mainly to bad lessons learned in life and not by how my husband behaves at all). It seems my baby cray cray hubby has already determined what we will need to accomplish each day and is getting set to practice his role and start doing his chores so we’re ready. It’s both mind boggling and kind of like makes me fall in love with him even more, because seriously? I think he’d carry the baby himself if he could and god bless him for being that way!

  • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

    For me, parenting hasn’t been too hard . . . or not nearly as hard as having Partum Depression was. That was, like, suicidal-close-myself-off-from-everyone HARD. And now I fear having another kid (even though I think I would like to) . . . not because babies are scary*, but because I have so much more to lose this time around (my daughter! my fiance! my family!), you know? People are CONSTANTLY telling me “oh, well, it’ll be different this time, because you’ll be in a better place financially,” as if that had anything to do with mental illness, and it’s just So. Effing. Frustrating.

    Phew. Sorry, I had to get that out.

    But anyway, yes x100000 to everything said here. I feel like, as a society, we’re so conditioned now to think we’re going to screw up our kids and it scares us to have them, because what if we can’t X, Y or Z, but you what? At the end of the day, if your kid is loved and doesn’t grow up to be a serial rapist or cannibal**? I figure you did a pretty good job.

    * I found/find parenting HARD and STRESSFUL sometimes, but never really SCARY. Only as scary as any type of love is – you realize that this person means so much to you, so naturally you’re a little scared, maybe, of letting yourself be so vulnerable, but the babies aren’t actually scary.

    *Obvs all serial rapists and cannibals are responsible for their own actions.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

      I apologize ahead of time if I’m being bossy here or putting my nose in your biz, but in regards to depression and fearing it again:
      I don’t personally know what causes my depression, though it seems that hormones are playing a role in it. Recently I became as depressed as I’ve ever been before. Your description of the post partum matches my just regular depression. It’s been tough and scary, BUT (and this is a good but) because I’ve been depressed before, and admittedly worked hard on my personal issues and self awareness, I have felt more control over my depression. I still get wicked low and I still feel at my darkest, but by simply writing out my feelings and confronting myself with my (possibly hormone driven) emotions, I am WAY more easily able to break out of a black spell, bring myself back up to manageable and calm myself better. This is without medication. So although I totally understand the fear, and its a fear I have about even just getting pregnant, remind yourself you can get through it. You’ve done it before so you know what can happen, you know what to look for and maybe even what can help. You’ve got all this self education, so maybe feel confident in yourself and your ability to manage. And instead of trying to convince you it will “be different”, your support system could change it to, “you will understand it” because you’ve been there and you know it gets better. Sometimes just repeating that to myself is enough. Just my two cents. Or more like 500 cents.

      • http://www.foreveryoungadult.com Erin

        That is very true and a good point; I did it before so I can probably do it again. But also, I kind of feel like . . . the difficulty of my pregnancy really did taint the first year or so of my relationship with my daughter, not to mention that I made some very bad choices at the time, some I’m still feeling the lasting effects of. So do I want to willingly sign up for that much pain again, even knowing that this time around I’ll presumably at least be aware of what’s happening to me (the worst part of depression, of course, is how it rewrites the narrative of your life to highlight your worst possible fears)? Do I want to put my child through nine months of “mommy is just going to sit in the dark and cry?” Do I want to put my partner through that? It’s not to say that my partner wouldn’t willingly take care of me in that time – he would – but I also think he doesn’t quite realize how bad things were for me (no one in my family does, mostly due to my cutting myself off from everyone during the time it happened). I don’t know. It’s just a lot to think about. :-/

        Of course, if I had more money and no history of partum depression, I could adopt! IRONY.

        • Paranoid Libra

          Well there is always surogacy if it’s that bad of fear, but all pregnancies are different. Also if you do wind up pregnant again you can build a support plan ahead of time like many women who are also bi-polar and choosing to do pregnancy med free because of the limited number of approved meds for mental health that are allowed to be taken during pregnancy but still have birth defect risks associated with them.

          Good luck with whatever happens and seriously the whole you can’t adopt because of partum depression is like saying a fat person shouldn’t have veggies because they are already fat to me. Instead eating veggies can help someone who is fat just like avoiding pregnancy with a woman who suffered partum depression would help avoid the depression.*

          *Although perhaps I need to research more on partum depression

        • meg

          Yeah, I understand this. Knowing I have the tools to manage it is good, but it’s still scary.

          But I do want to just give a PSA on the comment above. There is a *lot* of pressure for women to do pregnancies drug free, and most of that is cultural pressure. The medical establishment is pretty clear on the fact that it’s often FAR more dangerous for mom and fetus to do a pregnancy drug free with any mental health issues that are serious, than deal with the very small risks associated with meds. The med-free pressure leads to a lot of shame for people with Partum Depression that’s even further isolating, which makes it even more dangerous than it already is.

          • Paranoid Libra

            I fully understand that often times the meds are actually the better option. I have seen women who were heavy smokers that suddenly were pregnant being told it’s possible to be less stressful and damaging to have only 1 or 2 a day instead of cold turkey sweating it out.

            I think it all goes back to fear of screwing up your child so the popular opinion is the less things the better. And also the fear of being the guinea pig to figure out what could happen if I was taking this or doing this thing that many dr’s aren’t sure if its safe or unsafe since the rule of thumb is no unless already proven to be safe.

            A healthy mom helps baby be healthier whether its mom takes an hour or so to go be alone and get her nails done or mom needs to take some meds while pregnant so she can function normally. This way mom can be the best mom she can be.

          • meg

            Well, yes, but I just want to hit home because it’s SO IMPORTANT, that Partum Depression can’t be compared to a mom who smokes, or a mom who needs time out to get her nails done.

            Without meds, the path women are culturally pressured to take (and something you’re reinforcing in this comment, intentionally or not, by using terms like “fear of screwing up your child” and “popular opinion” and “guinea pig,”) a whole lot of things can happen. 1) The stress and depression hormones produced by your body can be at least chemically damaging to your fetus than medication. 2) Women can’t physically take care of themselves on the most basic levels: feed themselves properly, sleep, and take care of basic needs, which is damaging to the fetus. 3) Women can hurt or kill themselves.

            It’s easy to pass on this passive agressive cultural messaging that, taking meds is something you do for you, like getting your nails done. Or to pass on the messaging there haven’t been studies about meds (there have been).

            Point blank: that messaging can kill people. This is really serious business, and we need to treat it as such.

        • Kristen

          Ultimately you’re the only one who can know if it’s worth the risk. I hope sincerely that whatever you choose, you are proud of yourself because either decision is truly brave. Good luck!

  • http://www.dmarried.com Blair

    You guys are awesome. I swear I am humbled from reading this site every day.

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