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Mar 31 2014

Dear New Parent, You’re In For a Few Surprises

By at 10:03 am

baby-drool

Dear Friend,

I always envied your pictures on Instagram and Facebook: they were windows into another airbrushed, glamorous life. You were running marathons, speaking at conferences and hoisting glasses with tables full of friends. You posed in leather on your Vespa, looking amazing, with your beautiful wife smiling and holding onto your waist.

And now, you’re posting status updates at 4 a.m. as you walk your brand-new stroller back and forth in your living room, hoping the baby will fall asleep for more than 10 minutes and wondering what the hell hit you. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 17 2013

How My Mom Friends Became My Real Friends

By at 11:50 am

ladies

When you announce you’re about to have a child, the first thing everyone wants to do (after wishing you congratulations) is give you advice. And for many people, that advice is to make “mom friends.” It’s essential, I was told, to have someone to share poop and sleep and nursing horror stories with; to know someone who was going through the same challenges I was going through at the same time. It seemed to make sense, but how would I find these elusive “mom friends”?

At the time, I didn’t know anyone else in my city who had kids or was pregnant. What city? Brooklyn.

Brooklyn: Where the moms are known for being crunchy, co-sleeping, vegan-proselytizing, compost-loving and helicopter-parenting, skinny and fashionable, Type A, hyper-achievers. All the stereotypes were extreme (as stereotypes often are) and they all made me nervous. Would I get along with Brooklyn moms? What if I couldn’t make my own organic baby food? What if I didn’t lose all my baby weight in three weeks? Would I like them? Would they like me? Was I entering motherhood or middle school? Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 29 2013

Judging all the Judgmental Parents

By at 10:27 am

baby girl eating toyI recently took my daughter to a gym class where they put out an assortment of instruments for the kids to play with. And my little 8-month-old teething machine put every last one of them in her mouth. As she gave each a slurp, a few of the moms made comments to their children, loud enough for me to hear, “No, no, we don’t put these toys in our mouth. They’re not clean.” And with the comments came the judgmental looks. You know the looks.

I had mixed feelings knowing that as the foot long string of drool extended from my child’s mouth that her slobber was the reason their children couldn’t fully enjoy the toys, but at the same time I was left wondering who these moms were to judge me for allowing my daughter to enjoy every mouthful of her maraca.

It felt like by them saying that the toys were not clean, they were implying that my child was not clean. I wanted to scream, “She’s clean! I bathe her! She smells like baby shampoo right now! Smell her head! Smell it!!!”

But I didn’t. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 8 2013

In Praise of the Meal Train

By at 4:08 pm

I’ve never once been told not to eat when it came to my Jewish family. In fact, the opposite holds true. I’m usually not eating enough.

Have some more matzah balls.

Did you try the stuffed cabbage yet?

Here, take a little bit more tzimmes.

There’s never enough food. The food itself: warm, rich, and soul-satisfying made me feel loved and taken care of, just like I felt about the women and men who prepared it all for me growing up. I’ve taken many of the food-focused life lessons I learned in my Jewish household and have continued to practice them in my adult life. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 11 2012

How I Became a Father Six Weeks Earlier than Planned

By at 4:37 pm

avram mlotek new babyWe sat in the waiting room.

My wife and I came up with a list of what we had to do later that day: respond to emails, clean our apartment, maybe watch an episode of Mad Men.

We had been sensitive to the kabbalistic notion of the ayin ha-ra, the evil eye, and refrained from excessive preparation of unconfirmed events. Yet, we figured, with a month away and a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan to reorganize, it was time to build a crib. Earlier that day before the unexpected rush to the hospital, my grandparents surprised us with a rocking chair they had reupholstered for their first great-grandchild. A few hours later, my wife went into labor six weeks before our baby’s expected due date. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 4 2012

“Hey Kiddo, I’m Your Dad”

By at 9:23 am
Boaz Harel

Boaz and his daughter

I can clearly remember the first time I made a decision as a parent. It was around 1:30 am on October 22, 2011, the night my daughter was born.

I had just arrived at the nursery of the hospital, pushing in front of me a little rolling cradle with an incredibly tiny new person inside. Mine, they told me, though she definitely felt alien.

I had held her in my arms and welcomed her into the world not fifteen minutes earlier, but somehow it still didn’t feel real. I guess after 30 hours without sleep, nothing really does. I had actually wanted to simply carry my child to the nursery in my arms, but the hospital wouldn’t have it. The delivery rooms were on the eighth floor, and the nursery on the third, and they weren’t taking any chances on new parents dropping their kids on the way down. Annoying, but I had to concede the point. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 19 2012

Friend Your Baby

By at 9:44 am

Your baby can have this onesie too at uncommonlycute.com

Don’t put your baby on Facebook!

Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. But Wall Street Journal writer Janet Paskin isn’t refraining from posting the cute baby pictures out of fear that she’s compromising her kid’s digital security. Rather, Paskin writes, “I worried that, by publically [sic] donning my mom-hat, I might be hurting myself.” In other words, keeping baby off of Facebook isn’t for his or her own good–it’s for yours.

Paskin writes that she’d rather not post pictures or items about her baby on Facebook because “women with children fare worse, professionally and financially, than women without. Moms face more difficulty getting hired and earn less than their childless peers. It’s worse for new, breastfeeding moms, who are judged to be less competent and less likely to be hired than bottle-feeding moms and who suffer more severe and prolonged earnings loss. Even controlling for all the extenuating circumstances that make salary comparisons really hard, the evidence seems pretty conclusive: Moms earn less, and have less success, than women without children.”

Clearly, I disagree with this completely. Frankly, I’m not even sure where to begin. Of course, I take issue with the underlying premises that mothers are somehow crappier workers–if anything, mothers are perhaps the most kickass multitaskers in the universe. The breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding mom hiring stats are almost too stupid to mention.

But I am particularly offended by the idea that in order to succeed in the workplace, I would need to hide who I am. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 5 2012

Swooshing Vertical Blinds, Crinkling Paper, And Other Things My Daughter Taught Me

By at 9:04 am

As new parents, we assume all the responsibility for teaching lies with us; in many ways it does. After all, we’ve lived longer than our babies. We know how water faucets and doors work. The flip-side of familiarity, of course, is blindness and the chance to be distracted and bogged down by the petty and unimportant.

The beauty of a new baby is the opportunity to be excited by swooshing vertical blinds and crinkling paper all over again. Everything thrills and deserves study, and if you’re lucky to have a teacher like my Lila, you find you can learn plenty.

1. First things first, second things never. Lila is a cheerful baby, recognizable by her ear-to-ear grin. However, if she misses a nap or has to wait too long to eat – say, while we’re driving somewhere – her sweet temper can be displaced by miserable screaming. So, we’ve learned to stay focused on what matters. Every day, I concentrate on ensuring that Lila naps and eats, according to her body’s schedule. With that, everything else hums along.

2. Every day is special. I never liked mornings, but now, it’s a treat to see and hold Lila, who always flashes her smile. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Monday or a Friday. Every day is another opportunity to play. Be grateful for every day.

3. Lead with a smile. Smiling is infectious. There’s nothing like seeing Lila beaming to make grumpy commuters smile at us on the Metro. More effective than department store make-up, a smile lights up your face and distracts people from any raccoon eyes spawned by late nights.

4. Be persistent. The best way to master a new skill is to practice relentlessly. As adults, we sometimes forget that it takes time to become expert. Lila charmingly has no such expectations for herself. When she decided she wanted to move across the living room, she started with Plank Pose and jumped forward stiffly (a new Yoga pose I dubbed “Flying Plank”). From there, she progressed to scooting and crawling, all at her own pace. If you want to develop a flair for something, practice without an eye on the clock.

5. Develop resilience. Life involves hardship; there’s no avoiding it. Our best solution is become resilient, which Lila is already doing. I marvel, as I watch her practice standing, inevitably tipping over, often backwards, and sometimes headfirst into a table leg. Occasionally she cries – mostly seeming startled – but she’s always lunges right back toward the box or chair, pulling herself up yet again. Don’t let trips and falls ruffle your feathers; keep going.

6. Push your limits. Everyone has a comfort zone, and leaving it is hard. However, it can also be fun. Lila amuses by constantly finding new things to try and explore. Her latest athletic invention is leaping off the My Brest Friend pillow post-feeding onto the couch, then crawling to the other end and peering over the curved edge, giggling all the way. If I weren’t fast on my feet, she’d leap onto the floor too. Look beyond the edges of your known world. That way may lie fun.

7. Be joyful. Nothing makes Lila happier than singing. When she cries, it’s the fastest remedy, and when she’s happy, there’s nothing more likely to elicit squeals of joy, except maybe dancing. Having an audience makes both singing and dancing more fun, and both add lightness to any day. Sing or dance daily; music makes even the gloomiest day brighter.

8. Be a change agent. Presumably, there are things you don’t like about your life. The question is what you do about them. Lila has already decided to be proactive. While she still can’t vote with her feet, she has already learned to remove herself from situations she dislikes. For example, increasingly, diaper and wardrobe changes involve Lila’s rolling or crawling away. I know she’d rather be tugging at wires in the wall or pulling the doorstop to hear it vibrating. So, I persist, trying mightily to quickly finish the change at hand, but so does Lila. If there’s something you dislike, move on or try to change it.

These are important lessons for a parent, and I envision many more to come. After all, Lila still can’t speak. If she could, I imagine she’d quote Rabbi Hillel, citing him as her personal inspiration: “I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.”

Aug 18 2011

Postpartum Anxiety–This is What Mine Looked Like

By at 9:46 am

Tamara recently left her beloved buckeye-state and relocated to Pittsburgh with her husband and infant son. While at home, she’s decided to give writing, attachment parenting, and photography a try. And when she saw our post about depression, she decided to share her story.

The birth of my son brought about some of the craziest emotions I’ve ever had in my entire life. Happy ones, sad ones, normal ones, and desperate ones. After a pretty uneventful first two trimesters–being put on bed rest in my third trimester really took a toll on me emotionally. Then after he was born, we struggled with breastfeeding. At his two month visit when we found out that he hadn’t gained weight, my husband and I were broken to the core. The entire day is a blur, all I remember is the pediatrician shaking her head at the weight and then–as if I am a ghost in the room–I watch myself sobbing uncontrollably, tears falling on my tiny boy who is screaming at the breast. That visit threw me down a hole of self blame. This precious gift that I worked so hard to bring into this world was hungry.

At the time nothing was as it should be. We closed on our home-sale the day my water broke and we were packing up our belongings on no more than two hours of sleep each night. I was struggling with pain from some postpartum complications and my body was weak and still recovering from bed rest. And to top it all off, I hadn’t finished writing our thank you notes yet.

We were living amongst boxes.
We were worrying about money.
We were moving to a city where we had no friends or family.
My baby was hungry.
It was too much.

Looking back–all that was probably too much for almost anyone.

I cried, a lot. Every day I cried. I cried because I couldn’t pump enough milk. I cried because my baby wouldn’t latch. I cried because we were leaving a home we loved. I cried because I felt I had no business being a mother.

Other people saw us struggling. We asked for more help than we ever have in our entire lives in that three month time span. It was like my husband and I were shells of ourselves just going through the motions of our hectic life. Everything we knew was being changed, all at once. Everything. Our friends, where we lived, our jobs, our marriage, our finances. And we were responsible for this new little person who didn’t happen to arrive with an instruction booklet. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 29 2011

The Reality of New Parenting

By at 11:37 am

WARNING: This is what most women look like after 4 days of labor, culminating in pushing out an 8 lb, 11 oz baby.

A dear friend of mine recently had her first baby (little Orli Rose, in fact, whose name was inspired by a Kveller contest!), and we were commiserating about the indignities of giving birth and the immediate aftermath. It seems as though everyone talks about what to expect when you’re, well, expecting, but we both felt ill-prepared for the changes that happen after you’ve actually had the baby. I honestly thought I would just push the little munchkin out, walk right out of the labor & delivery room and get myself a pizza. Everything else, from nursing to losing weight, would just magically fall into place, because having babies is a natural process, right?

Ha.

I had no idea that I would need stitches, or that my first post-delivery trip to the bathroom (and I’m not talking about urinating here, people) would be a terrifying experience (and not so different from childbirth itself), or that my boobs would not only explode to a size that Dolly Parton would be proud of, but that they would leak. Um, yuck? (Truth be told, it seemed like every part of me was leaking, but I’ll spare you those details.) No one warned me about the freaky hospital-issued mesh underwear designed to hold maxi-pads the size of mattresses, or the nurse who would shamelessly pinch my nipple as we tried to get my daughter latched on. And most of all, I was totally ill-prepared for the intrusive questions and irritating clichés that would come my way from friends, family, and even strangers.

That may have been one of the hardest parts of being a brand-new mother. I didn’t want to share my “birth story” while I was waiting in line at the grocery store. I was exhausted and overwhelmed, and annoyed when people kept imploring me to “enjoy every precious moment.” I was trying to enjoy them, and I certainly succeeded some of the time, but it was hard when I was covered in poop at 3 am, or trying desperately to get the baby to latch on to my cracked nipple. I was shell-shocked and confused, and I just wanted someone to be honest with me about what to expect.

I’m almost three years and two babies removed from that experience, and I’ve got a little more perspective on it. As a result, I’ve started being honest with my friends who have new babies. An old friend recently announced the birth of his second daughter on Facebook. This was my comment: “Mazel Tov! Sisters are the best. Although two kids can be kind of a sh*tshow. But fun. Until it sucks. But then it’s good again. And eventually they move out, right? Good luck!”

At first I regretted my words, and worried that perhaps I had been too honest, but my friend quickly responded with “Carla, thanks for sending along what I know are the first truly honest reflections over the past 24 hours. The well wishes and congrats are lovely and heartfelt, but bottom line, it’s gonna be a sh*tshow.

Whew.

To be honest, I wish I had heard such comments from my friends who had kids when I was a new parent. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have felt so alone. I supposed that’s one reason why Go The F*ck to Sleep has been such a success—parenting is wonderful, but incredibly hard, and maybe we aren’t talking about the hard stuff enough. So, in the spirit of camaraderie that Debbie Kolben recently wrote about, let’s share the whole story. If you know someone who is a new or expecting parent, offer to talk to them about the pain and the soreness and the leakage and the poop and the spit-up and the exhaustion and fatigue. Don’t ask about the birth story—if she’s ready to talk about it, she will. Don’t comment on the joys of motherhood, and please, whatever you, don’t tell her to sleep when the baby sleeps or enjoy these precious moments. Just be real with her. And let her know that it’s ok if there are times when she just wants the baby to go the f*ck to sleep.

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