Tick-Tock, Time is Ticking

By Angela

“Enjoy it, time goes by so fast!”

Every time I hear those words, they are usually in the context of a person I don’t know remarking how cute Zelda is. After an awkward smile and maybe a thank-you, the person continues:

How old is she?
16 months.
Oh enjoy it while you can. Time goes by so fast!

A disclaimer. I know these people mean well. I know they are trying to be nice. That said, I can’t stand it when I hear those words. It’s not because of the awkward situation this imparting of wisdom causes. It’s not because it usually comes at times I am chasing my 16-month old down the aisle at Target. Hell, it’s not even because a perfect stranger might be assuming I’m not enjoying motherhood.

It’s because I’ve already learned this lesson, and it’s kind of broken my heart a little.

Wrapped like a burrito.

Let me explain. When Zelda was teeny-tiny, we used to wrap her in a swaddle for bed. She slept in a pack and play napper in the corner of our room for the first seven months. Every morning, I’d take Zelda out of the napper and unwrap the swaddle. She’d yawn, stretch, and make the cutest little duck face while she was stretching. Every morning for those seven months, without fail, she’d make the start of the day perfect. Then she started rolling at seven months, and we had to put her in a crib. No more swaddle, no more unwrapping, no more duck face. Just like that, one morning that perfect start to the day was over.

Saturday, Super Lazy Edition.

Another favorite was our Saturday morning ritual before Zelda learned to crawl. She’d wake us up early, Matt would make coffee, and I’d breastfeed her. Then, with piping hot coffee in hand, we’d settle Zelda with some toys and books, drink our coffee, and watch the morning news. Those mornings are long gone, since Zelda can’t stay in one place for more than five seconds. Both of us miss those mornings so much.

Slinging it in the local record shop.

There’s a whole list of things I miss: her toothless smile, the YA DEE she used to say when she wanted something, breastfeeding her right before bed, the newborn cuddles, carrying her in a sling, giving her baths in the kitchen sink. I understand how fast the time goes, and how important it is to savor every second. I also know the aching sadness that comes with the realization that those times are gone and will only exist in my memory. It takes a lot for me not to say something like I KNOW when I hear someone tell me to enjoy it.

However, as sad as I am that these little moments in time have passed, I’ve also realized something important: there are just as many new and amazing moments to enjoy. They aren’t the same, but that’s the price you pay for being a parent: seeing your child grow.

So now, when Zelda gives me a toothy smile, says “mama,” or stuffs her face full of bread at breakfast, I try as hard as I can to savor those moments. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t savor the other ones enough. The good thing is, many more of those amazing moments are yet to come.

Valentine’s Day, 2016. Snuggles from Zelda and Torrance. Zelda was five days old.

So yes, I’m enjoying it the best I can. Every time I hear that I should, it’s sort of like the twist of a knife. I know. I miss so many moments already. But there’s plenty more to look forward to.

“Peek a Choo-Choo”: Zelda Discovers Books

By Angela

I’ve loved reading since I was a little kid. My mom and dad tell me I always had my nose stuck in a book, and I preferred books over toys. Recently, my mother gave me a box of old books that had been sitting in the attic: a vintage Disney storybook, two volumes of fairy tales (the originals, not the sanitized versions), Richard Scarry books, Aesop’s Fables in Scots verse, and more. My love for reading followed me through grade school and college, and to this day there is nothing more exciting to me than starting a new book.

I’ve been hoping Zelda becomes a bookworm, too. She didn’t show much interest in books until Christmas, when she got a cute book called Peek a Who? from her grandparents and another one entitled That’s Not My Dinosaur! from her cousins in Oklahoma. One night, when she wouldn’t settle down one night, I heard Matt reading Peek a Who to her. She quieted down, so he read it to her again and then successfully put her to bed.

Zelda surrounded by her favorites. Peek a Who, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Baby Animals (from the kiddie encyclopedia), That’s Not My Dinosaur, Peek a Boo, and Sea Star, from the Little Ocean series.

Somewhere in the weeks to come, she would start finding the book and handing it to us to read. Sometimes it would be punctuated by her way of saying “read this”: YAAAA DEEEE. And we wouldn’t read it once, we would read it no less than ten times, sometimes more. That’s Not My Dinosaur! got added to the mix, and soon we were constantly reading those two books, day in and day out.

Reading Peek a Boo on a trip to Virginia Beach.

She now has a rotating set of books she loves, including random tiny books from a kids’ encyclopedia set her grandparents gave her. Her books, not her toys, litter the main room of our house, and they keep her entertained while we travel. Matt and I, with our regular habit of creating our own language, will let loose with a random “Peek a MOO” or “gorilla infant” at random times and laugh like it’s the funniest joke ever.

She doesn’t do the YAAA DEEE as much anymore, but she does cry when I finish a book and demand I read it again. I think of all the books I’ve finished and cried because they’re over – and I wonder if I started off this way, crying at the end of a book like That’s Not My Dinosaur! When I open the book and start reading again, she stops immediately. It’s uncanny.

Elizabeth I’s biography from the rebel girls book.

My personal favorite is a book called Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls. It’s a collection of famous women’s biographies, written like fairy tales. It has amazing artwork for each woman. I had to take the book away from her because she was starting to break the spine, but she loved looking through the pictures. I’m hoping it will be her favorite when she gets older.

While reading Peek a Who forty times a day gets old, my inner English scholar is pleased. Keeping my fingers crossed that she loves reading as much as I do.

“What a Le”: An Eng Nickname Primer

By Angela

Back in June, when writing about Father’s Day, Matt mentioned he had a family tradition of developing a sort of in-family language. He’s extended this tradition to me, so now we’ve got our own in-family language. A quick (and updated) vocabulary lesson:

“Hey how much?” – It’s time to make a bottle. How many ounces?

“Are you going to boob her?” – Are you going to breastfeed?

“Here comes the sadness”- We’re about to dump water over your head in the bathtub

Are you ty-ty? – Are you tired?

Not as good as “Frogurt.”

Aside from the weird sounding questions, Matt’s got a habit of naming those nearest and dearest to him, and they tend to catch on fast. Think Sawyer from Lost, only a bit more abstract. The cat is not Gozer, she’s Kee (short for Kitty), Shrimp Toast, Puddin’Cup. The dog is rarely Torrance, she’s Boo-Boo, T-Dawg, Butterbutt. Those are just examples. In many cases, the names evolve and become offshoots of one another. And no, I do not get the cute names.

Zelda, however, does. Before she was born, Matt started calling her Z-Gram, the semi-official title for policy directives issued by Elmo Zumwalt, an American naval officer in the Vietnam War era. Several friends have heard us call her this, and one who was familiar with naval history even had a laugh about it. Our last trip back to Suffolk, her 6 year-old cousin used the term and I thought I was going to keel over from the adorable.

Little Crabcake.

For awhile we called her “La,” which was a direct reference to the sounds she used to make when she was crying: “La, La, La, La.” We also called her “Little Crabcake,” because I got her footie PJs with crabs on them. We don’t really use them anymore, though.

An early one that stuck was “Plumpo,” which eventually evolved to “Plumpy.”  Offshoots include Plum, Baby Plump, and Little Plump. I try not to use this one in mixed company too much, but one time I referred to her as Plumpy in front of my brother. He asked, “Who’s Plumpy?” and I probably turned fifty shades of red. This one is slowly getting phased out in favor of “Poopy.” I’ve got to remember not to use that one in front of anyone else!

A more recent one is “Qua-Le” and its offshoot “Wah-Le.” This sort of comes from her daycare provider. She speaks another language, so sometimes she holds out her hands for Zelda I hear her say, “Cha-Le.” I don’t know what it means, but I assume its some form of “come here.” Matt latched on to the “Le” (pronounced “lay”) part of the phrase, and started calling Zelda “Le.” He still does, but only in certain contexts. I’ve noticed he mostly uses it when she’s showing signs of being tired, and makes comments like, “Aww Le. What a Le.” Qua-Le and Wah-Le came about from one of Matt’s made-up songs that goes something like, “Qua-Le, Wah-Le, a doot-doot-doot, a deet-deet-deet.” Now, when he texts me and asks how she’s doing, it’s always “How’s that Qua-Le?”

I guess it all sounds kind of silly, but I love having our own language and making up our own songs. Sooner or later Zelda’s going to catch on, and it’s all going to change. I distinctly remember my mom calling me Stinkpot when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I must have told her to stop at some point. Got to enjoy it while we can.

Year One

By Angela

So, here we are. One year. Just . . . Wow.

We couldn’t have a full day together—work and all—but I did get off a little early and we went for a meal at our favorite Mexican joint. Zelda ate a generous helping of refried beans and rice. The servers all sang Happy Birthday and presented her with a birthday sopapilla. It was all very low-key and fun. This weekend we’ll travel back to Suffolk to celebrate with family.

Birthday Sopapilla!

I could write about all kinds of sappy things, like what being a mother means to me, how having a daughter has changed me, and the joy of raising a tiny human. However, I think a lot of that would be a lot of pre-packaged, canned sentiment. The truth is, having a daughter HAS changed me. But not in the glossy magazine mommy-blog type way.

 

Behold, the list of things I do/think now that I didn’t before having a baby:

1. I sing a lot more. Every day, even. If you know me, you know how wonderful my singing ability is. Luckily Zelda doesn’t know any better.

2. Poop doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve faced projectile poop, scrubbed it off walls, witnessed ones that stretched from head to toe, and tossed out many ruined onesies.

A blowout for the ages.

3. I’m having trouble enjoying horror now. I’m an avid Stephen King fan, but for some reason I haven’t been able to read him lately. I read his most recent collection of short stories on my metro rides shortly after returning to work, and one featured a car wreck in which a number of children were killed. I haven’t been able to pick up a King book since, even books I’ve already read.

4. I miss disposable income. I also miss impulsively going to movies, concerts, and restaurants. Some days I miss it more than others. I miss naps the most, though.

5. I’m perpetually tired. I didn’t know it was possible to be this tired and survive. And this is just with one kid. 8pm is a perfectly acceptable bedtime.

Matt and Torrance at 3 AM, shortly after bringing Zelda home.

6. Early into parenthood, I remember fetching Zelda at about 2 AM. While I was nursing her, Matt said, “Why are you starting vacantly into space?” Remembering an old Rugrats episode, I answered, “Because I’ve lost control of my life.” Sometimes I think that will be my state of mind forever.

7. There is no better sound in the world than your child laughing.

8. I’m more sympathetic to children who cry in public and the mothers that have to deal with it.

9. I really wish that there was a better mechanism for pumping breastmilk. The one available now makes me feel like a cow.

10. I love being a mother and would not trade it for the world.
Here’s to many more birthdays, and many more memories.

My Valentine’s Day in 2016. it was perfect.

Zelda’s First Thanksgiving

By Angela

So, Thanksgiving. When I was a kid, this holiday meant spending time together as a family. Usually we’d cook all day, watch football games, eat, and maybe play games afterwards. Later on down the line, somewhere in the late 90’s, my brother and I started the tradition of early-morning Black Friday shopping (we were trying to find Star Wars figures). Now we have families of our own and our traditions have been altered, but some, like Harrison Dip, still remain (Harrison Dip is a secret family recipe and we have had it every single Thanksgiving I can remember).

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Zelda with Grandma and Grandpa Harrison

This year was incredibly different. Zelda is now nine and a half months old, and her presence has transformed the holiday. Last year, I was massively pregnant and had acid reflux, so I didn’t eat much. I didn’t move much, either. The holiday was spent in the same house we’d spent Thanksgiving for the past 30 years. This year, Thanksgiving was in my mom and Dad’s new house in Suffolk, I ate way too much, and I was chasing Zelda all over the place. It was—dare I say it—fun.

It was a full house: my mom and dad, my brother and his wife, their three kids, and their neighbors and their three kids. It was chaos: kiddie toys strewn about, screaming children, thumping footsteps, lots of tears and even more laughter.

Spending quality time with cousins
Spending quality time with cousins

All the kids played together nicely. I think, without a doubt, one of my favorite moments of the night was when Zelda’s younger cousin came in and made a beeline for her. They looked at each other for a second, then Zelda lit up. When she did, so did he.

I drank a lot of wine and ate a lot of good food. Zelda even got in on the fun. I gave her a spoonful of mashed potatoes and she ate it all—but she also got it all over herself. Matt joked that there was an “It’s Something About Mary” hairstyle going on. We had to bathe her afterwards; she’d gotten potatoes everywhere. Matt and I were both aching by the end of the night from all the running around, but we were full of good food and ready to get some good sleep. Too bad I snore, and too bad Zelda had other plans.

Potato head
Potato head

We spent the rest of the weekend visiting small towns outside Suffolk (Smithfield, Rescue, and Franklin, to be exact), visiting friends in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, eating excellent sushi, having dim sum with Matt’s parents, and walking around the pathetic excuse for a mall called Pembroke. I finally got my mane of hair chopped off and I feel magical. There’s all the things I’m thankful for that aren’t the usual staples of family and friends: good food, a wonderful haircut, being out and about, and seeing new places.

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Playing with friends

I guess I summed it up pretty well when someone asked how my Thanksgiving was, and I said good, loud, and full of kids. I added, “It’s a big reminder how my life has drastically changed.” When Matt and I were headed to downtown Norfolk to get a drink with some friends, I mused about how I’d go dancing or something on a night like this not even five years ago. I wasn’t sad about it, but I hit an unexpected twinge of nostalgia. A life far different, sure, but full of enough memories to pass along to my daughter when the time is right.

So yeah, this Thanksgiving was different from the family traditions I grew up with, but I like this new wilder and crazier one. Here’s hoping the next one is even wilder.

Playing Catch Up

It’s been awhile. Truthfully, we fell off of posting, let the domain lapse, and just now got around to getting it back. But we’re back now, and we plan to post some more.

baby pillow
One of the rare nights she decided to fall asleep on me.

My last post was in June of 2016, which does and does not seem that long ago. In June, Zelda was four months old and just starting to become more human. We were falling into a routine. We were getting a solid five hours of sleep a night. Now she’s eight months old, even more human, the routine is pretty much the same, and we average about three hours of sleep a night right now. I’m nostalgic for those swaddling days already.

Somewhere in our four month hiatus, I had a friend ask me what it was like to be a parent. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I kinda love being a mommy.

Friend: I can tell! I’m so happy for you!

Me: She’s pretty much the best thing ever. You know that feeling when you start a new book, play a new game, or get a new gadget? That feeling is like, every day.

Friend: Well, that is one of the most compelling descriptions of parenthood I’ve ever heard.

Me: Don’t get me wrong. There’s some days I want to ruin screaming out of the house. But the good feeling outweighs that.

I have no idea if this feeling will last or not, but I know that right now I wake up every day excited to see her. Every night, I’m sad she’s in bed and I can’t play with her anymore.

So I’ve been trying to think about how I can make up for four months of lost blog posts. She’s grown so much in the past four months: she’s eating solid food, she’s crawling and able to pull herself up to a standing position, she babbles, and her smile is still sans teeth but able to light up a room. Instead of rehash all that, I’ll leave you with a list of her five most current personality quirks:

1. She doesn’t like fruit. Put a banana near her face and she’ll scream. She’ll eat mangoes and pears, but she’s not too enthusiastic about them. She does seem to like apples. But vegetables? She loves them: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, peas, freaking zucchini. She eats them all and she’s happy to do it.

2. She wants to see anything and everything, and she takes it all in. She’s been all over the place: the National Zoo, the American History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the National Mall, and countless other places all over DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland. She loves being out and about, and she loves being in her carrier. She wants to be where the action is. Even when she’s in the carrier facing me, she’ll crane herself backwards so she can see what’s going on. I love her curiousity, and I love her intensity.

3. Her favorite game at the moment is what Matt calls “Mission Impossible.” You know the scene where Tom Cruise was hanging by all those wires in the super-fortified room to get the NOC List? Matt pretends like Zelda is doing the same thing, and swoops her up and down while singing the Mission Impossible theme. She laughs so hard every time he does it.

Let me play!
Let me play!

4. She loves music. Matt plays the guitar and ukulele, and he plays and sings to her on a regular basis. He even makes up silly songs about her. My current favorite is one entitled “Mama.” She even participates, since it’s the only word she knows. Fun fact: I am tone deaf and can’t sing worth a crap, but I sing to her when no one’s around. She seems to like it.

5. She is the sweetest in the morning. Usually she gives us a wake up call at five AM. I stumble in the nursery, bleary-eyed, and carry her back to the room. Matt’s usually snoring away and the dog is snoring right next to him. After I nurse her, she wakes up a little more and starts to babble. That’s when I put her in front of Matt and say, “excuse me.” Soon as he wakes up, she gives him a sloppy grin and tries to crawl all over him. We could put her back in the crib and try to get a little more sleep if it’s the weekend, or start getting ready for work if it’s a weekday, but she’s always so happy and so sweet that we’re content to stay in bed and play with her.

Matt and I are hoping to be more vigilant when it comes to posting, so here’s to more of the (mis)adventures of the Eng Dynasty.

Pumpkin patch day!
Pumpkin patch day!

Routines and Curveballs

By Angela

Ok, I’m guilty. We haven’t updated in awhile, mostly because we’re finally starting to fall into some kind of rhythm. I’m guessing that’s part of this whole parenting thing: finding a routine that works and keeping in line with it. In some ways, I’m good with that. There’s a small measure of comfort in routine. In other ways, the former version of myself wants to fight it. I never liked routine. To me, routine was one step away from being an automaton.

Right now out routine goes a lot like this: I wake up at 5:30 in the morning to feed her during the week, and the second she sees me I get a huge smile. I love that. I feed her, get her milk and diaper bag ready for daycare, and get my makeup on. Sometimes Matt changes her, sometimes I do. It depends on who’s further ahead with getting ready. We drop her off and are on the road to DC by 7 AM. I’m at work sometime between 7 and 8, depending on traffic. At 4 PM, I pack up and ride the metro home. From there it’s dinner, feedings, and killing time until bedtime. Then rinse and repeat. On the weekends I feed her at the usual time, then go back to sleep till the next feeding. We lounge around in bed with Zelda and  the dog until we decide to get moving for the day. So far as routines go, it’s not bad. Sometimes we get a curveball with fussiness or blowouts, but for the most part the days are similar. Of course, this routine could change at any time, but for now I’m content.

Then we have nights like tonight. I was trying to feed her and was getting frustrated about her nails raking all over my skin. Those little nails can get sharp! I insisted that we cut them with some baby nail clippers, because last time we tried a file it didn’t go so well. She screamed so much she vomited her last feeding. This would be much faster and more efficient, right?

What they don’t tell you: this dolphin can bite. 

WRONG.

Matt did great with the first three nails, but on the index finger he cut some skin by accident. We both went into panic mode because there was so much blood. Blood all over the place and Zelda was screaming. I had Matt wrap the finger and apply pressure, but I didn’t know how the hell to administer first aid to a four month old. If it was me, I would have slapped on some Neosporin and a Band-Aid, but I didn’t even know if you could give a baby Neosporin, or if using a Band-Aid was a good idea. So I called the doctor.

A half-hour later, she’d finally stopped bleeding and crying. In fact, she was passed out in Matt’s arms. We finally had a good look at the cut, and it looked like a really bad paper cut, nothing more. The doctor advised using Neosporin, but no Band-Aids. Keep her hands out of her mouth and watch for infection.

Okay, I take back what I said about routine. Routine trumps curveballs, especially where nail clippers are involved.

Matt nursing her wound.

Mothering Sunday

So here it is, my first Mothers Day. This whole “having a baby” thing still feels pretty surreal to me. Just a couple of days ago, I was thinking that the nights of dancing at the club, impromptu road trips, and late-night bull sessions in coffeeshops and IHOPS were not that far behind me, but they feel like they’re a million years ago. Now the late-night sessions are reserved for changings and feedings, and the “impromptu” road trips consist of destinations such as Target, Babies ‘R Us, or Wegman’s. Do I miss the pre-baby life? Sometimes. There was more freedom and I was less tired. But Zelda truly is a gift, and I love being a mommy.

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My mom and I enjoying some 99s in London, 2008.

This post isn’t really about me, though. It’s about my mom. I think most daughters think their mother is special, and I’m definitely one of them. My mom was born in Scotland, and when she married my father she left her home and family to start a family of her own. She reminded me, many times, that she and my dad figured out parenting all on their own. My dad was stationed in Hawaii when they had my brother, far away from the continental United States where his parents were and halfway around the world from Scotland. In the first couple of weeks after I had Zelda, I could not imagine trying to do it alone. It reminds me that my mother is made of steel, and I truly hope I can follow her example.

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My mom teaching me how to properly roll out a pie crust.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve truly understood everything my mother has passed on to me. I know my love for the small and kitschy, my love for shopping, and my quasi-dry humor all come from her. She’s got the dry humor down to a science, though. I love to bake, eat crackers and cheese, and drink wine, all things she loves, too. Some things, like the sewing and the knitting, which I did not pick up until I was 26, were passed to her from her mother. And it’s pretty cool, in my opinion, to think that the sewing and knitting are what connects me to the mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers of my family.

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Starting from the left: my grandmother, mother, great-grandmother, and two great aunts.

Now I can add being a mother to that list. After I had Zelda, my mom stayed with us for three weeks. Matt and I didn’t have a CLUE how to be parents. Hell, I didn’t know how to put a onesie on, change a diaper, or hold a baby bottle. Somehow, in that three weeks, she taught us all of that and more. She encouraged me when I got frustrated with breastfeeding, showed us how to swaddle, and taught us how to calm Zelda when she was inconsolable. She laughed with us through the massive blowouts and gave us the incredible gift of sleep in the days after coming home from the hospital. She showed me exactly what it is to be a mother, not just in the sense of caring for a baby, but in acts of selflessness and endurance. She gave me the tools to be a great mother, and for that I’m forever grateful.

I can only hope in the days and weeks and months and years to come that I will continue to take the lessons she taught me and continue to be a good mother. And, if I’m lucky, one day I can pass those lessons on to Zelda.

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My mom and I celebrating right after I successfully defended my dissertation in 2014.

Trying to Have it All

By Angela

A few months before I had Zelda, Matt and I went to a secondhand bookstore located on the fringes of Old Town. So far as secondhand bookstores go, this one is fancy. It’s ordered, clean, and there’s plenty of space between aisles. It’s even got a resident cat. There’s a small women’s studies section, and I always cruise by to see if there’s any interesting titles. I own many of the books that make up the section, but every now and then I find something interesting.

One such book is Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids, and Life in a Half-Changed World by Peggy Orenstein. It consists of conversations she had with over 200 women, ranging in age from the early twenties to the late forties. These conversations sketch a portrait of the different challenges of living in a world that has been changed by feminism, but has yet to be revolutionized. As I read through the book, I became alarmed at what was ahead. Friedan was right all along: you can have it all, just not all at once. At least, not without some serious sacrifices.

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Picture sent by Zelda’s daycare.

The stories in that book and the idea of sacrifice came back to me this past Monday, when we dropped Zelda off at daycare for the first time. I won’t lie. It was hard as hell. I’d always pictured myself as the hard-as-nails power career mom, who would kiss her kids goodbye and go off to work with a vengeance. Well, that picture unraveled fast when I realized just how much I was in love with Zelda. During the short three weeks I had leave, I understood why so many women gave up careers or never returned to work after having kids. That hardcore career mom vision began to fade around the edges. Even though it’s not possible financially, I started fantasize about not returning to work and just raising my baby. Ever see Baby Boom? How hard could it be to drop everything and go into business for myself? Right? RIGHT?

The thing about fantasizing, though, is that it’s just fantasy. The reality was the cold, wet Monday morning, dropping Zelda off at a virtual stranger’s apartment all day. God, I wished I could have had more than a measly six weeks with her! Mom guilt, man. It’s real. I could go on and on about how other countries have great maternity leave or talk about San Francisco passing a paid maternal leave law, but it’s not like that here and now, and there was nothing I can do to change the situation. I do hope more cities follow San Francisco’s example.

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A day in the life of Zelda.

Zelda’s caretaker is fantastic. She is a lovely woman, sends me pictures during the day, and even provides an itinerary of the day’s activities. The other kids are all older than Zelda, but they love her. One morning, when we were walking down the hallway to the caretaker’s apartment, one of the other kids at the other end of the hall saw us and cried, “It’s Baby Zelda!” Just today I was told Zelda added her own vocal stylings to storytime. Daycare is not a bad thing; she’s getting great social skills and exposure to other people.

Even though going back to work was hard, it’s not all bad. My place of employment actually has lactation rooms with privacy curtains, a sink, a fridge, and comfortable chairs. There’s even hospital grade pumps with necessary tools to borrow if you don’t have your own pump. It’s a nice place to go, and considering the stories I’ve heard of women pumping in broom closets, I know I’m fortunate. I’d rather be feeding her myself, but at least I have the option to pump. One woman, when she heard Zelda was in daycare and I was pumping at work, clucked her disapproval and said, “You must be really stressed.” Yeah lady, I am. but you know what? I’m doing what I’ve got to do. Just like all the women in that book I was reading.

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Pump, pump the jamz.

I recall a conversation with an acquaintance a long time ago. We were talking about kids and future plans. I mentioned I planned to work and have kids in daycare, whenever the time came. Her reply was, “I’m not going to put my kids in daycare. I’m going to be a GOOD Mom.” I never forgot that. It’s a double-edged sword: damned if you put kids in daycare, damned if you’re a stay-at-home mom. There’s no in between, no grey area.

The first day was agony, but it started to get a little easier after that. I can hardly wait to get home in the early evenings so I can give her all the kisses and hugs we missed during the day. Even times like this moment, where she’s fussing and crying, I still am so incredibly glad she’s here. Maybe I can’t have it all at once, but I can definitely give my all for her.

Trying to Love My Postpartum Body

By Angela

Okay, Zelda is almost 8 weeks old, so I’m officially out of my postpartum period. Truthfully, though, I’ll probably consider myself “postpartum” for a really long time.

One of the elements I’m trying to come to terms with postpartum is how incredibly different my body is. It makes sense, if you think about it: new chapter of my life, new role, new family member, new body to go with it. I’m extremely fortunate. However, I find myself struggling to accept this changed body.

kmpostpartumRemember when Kate Middleton made an almost immediate post-pregnancy appearance after having her first baby in 2013? In my overwhelming ignorance of pregnancy, childbirth, and the details associated with it, I recall being confused about how she looked. She’d just had a baby! Why did she still have a bump? I wasn’t the only one who was shocked. If anything, the whole event was a shockingly vivid picture of how in the dark so many of us are concerning pregnancy and childbirth.

It also highlights how weight-obsessed culture can be. I’ve also noticed there’s a tendency to highlight postpartum weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge accomplishment. However, the line between encouragement, sharing an accomplishment, bragging, and outright shaming is thin. And that thin line is important, as it sends mixed signals to people who receive these messages. Am I being too sensitive? Maybe. But when you do a Google image search of “postpartum weight loss,” these are the first three hits:

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Mixed messages, indeed.

I took the weight gain with pregnancy in stride. If anything, I was disappointed I took so long to show. I grew fond of my bump, and near the end I caught myself looking at my body in awe, like I couldn’t believe that I was capable of growing and carrying another human being inside of me.

Theoretically, I knew my body would be changed. I think, immediately postpartum, I was so relieved to not be pregnant that I didn’t think much about weight. We were so wrapped up in trying to survive I didn’t care. Then, maybe about three weeks ago, I started caring.

maternityjeansI’m pretty sure the catalyst was trying to move from my maternity pants to my regular ones. I can fit into my pre-pregnancy pants, but it ain’t pretty. Then I realized t-shirts and blouses that used to be somewhat big on me were now tight. The mirror, formerly a vessel admiring my pregnant body, suddenly grew cruel. It pointed out a new flaw every time I looked. Stretch marks. Loose skin. A double chin. And somehow, inexplicably, I started to panic a little.

The changes weren’t just in weight. My breasts, formerly large and in proportion, changed dramatically. They swelled monstrously and began to sag. My nipples got bigger and turned brown. I chalked it up to the price paid for feeding my baby. I accepted the truth that they’d be like that from here on out, but luckily some friends that already had kids assured me my breasts would change back to a semblance of their pre-baby state eventually.

My ladybits are changed, too. I couldn’t muster up the strength to look at them until maybe two weeks ago, right before my 6 week OB checkup. I knew I’d had a minor tear during delivery and gotten a couple of stitches, so I didn’t feel any sort of rush to peek. When I finally did look, I was pretty shocked at how much they’d changed. I’ll spare the details, but I will say that having a baby is a trauma on the body. With the rhetoric and the mystery surrounding birth, we tend to forget that. It takes time to heal. I wasn’t quite ready for what I saw. I haven’t looked again.

I’m over the moon in love with Zelda, and any price is worth her cooing and smiling at me in the morning. But I’m not in love with my postpartum body. This means I’ve got a laundry list of tasks, starting with a diet change. I do love my sweets, but I’ve got to lay off them for a bit. I need to walk more. Dust off the old Wii Fit. Be more disciplined. As for the other changes, well, I’ll have to learn to accept them. It’s not necessarily fair to compare my body now to the body it was. Somehow I need to get it that to stick in my head and move on.

Any time I’ve faced a challenge in my life, I’ve tended to face it head-on. So my new challenge is clear: try to love my postpartum body. I won’t look like I used to, but that’s okay. Once again, I’m reminded of the words a friend told me: the person you were before essentially dies, and a new person emerges. I thought she was referring to headspace only, but I think it applies to the bodyspace, too. The changes are a physical testament to the person you’ve become.

It’s the body of a mother.