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Oct 23 2014

Why This Jewish Dad Didn’t Want a Bris for His Son

By at 1:54 pm

tray of corned beef for a bris

As soon as the ultrasound revealed that my wife, Abi, was pregnant with a boy, I started worrying about the bris. Not worrying about who would perform it, or where we would order the cold cuts from, but about the conversation I would inevitably have to have with Abi about the fact that I didn’t want our son to have one.

Being an accomplished catastrophist, I have a knack (and a formalized strategy) for making things seem worse than they actually are, and when it finally came time to have the dreaded summit with Abi about the dissection of my future son’s penis, it didn’t go anything like I had anticipated. It wasn’t stilted or awkward or painful, it wasn’t violent or even dramatic. I said, “Look—I don’t want Elijah to have a bris. It’s a medical procedure and it should be done in a hospital by a physician.”

She patted me on the shoulder and replied, “Gabe, I know you hate being Jewish; it’s OK. We’re having a bris and that’s it.” Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 29 2014

For The First Time in Nine Years, I’m Not Going “Back to School”

By at 11:05 am

Newborn-playing

As soon as I discovered I was pregnant at the end of last summer, I set the wheels in motion to take a half-year sabbatical from my job teaching music, theatre and English at Maine’s smallest K-12 public school. We’re allowed a full year at half pay every seven years, but my family wouldn’t quite be able to swing that financially. Besides, between my six-week maternity leave, summer vacation and a four-month sabbatical, I piled up eight months of time at home with my daughter Penrose. The second half of the school year might be a nice break from around-the-clock parenting.

The word “sabbatical” is derived from the word “Sabbath,” and it’s supposed to be just that–a rest. In an academic or ecclesiastic context, you’re supposed to do something wholly unrelated to your job. But a public school teacher’s sabbatical is a little bit different. I needed to come up with a plan for somehow enriching the school. Writing a book and caring for a member of the class of 2032 wasn’t quite enough, so I’m going to be working on curriculum mapping and taking clarinet lessons.

School started the Tuesday after Labor Day. Ordinarily I’d have already been in workshops for two days, agonized over a bulletin board (cutting out letters has never been my forte), and picked out a back-to-school outfit. Instead, I woke up on a pee-soaked trundle bed next to a happily kicking 4-month-old. We weren’t on a schedule and we didn’t have an agenda, so I cleaned up and moved us into my bed to get a few more hours of sleep.  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 23 2014

I Need to Stop Worrying About My Sister’s Worrying

By at 3:49 pm

Sister-new-baby

My sister gave birth to her first baby last night. Her voice on the phone was both heavy with exhaustion and fluttery with joy. My heart ached to be so far away from her during this blessed beginning.

I was light and cheerful while we spoke. This was a happy occasion, of course. Perhaps the very happiest life has to offer.

Still, something about our conversation unnerved me. It wasn’t until hours later that it struck me. I’m worried about her. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 22 2014

The Importance of Being Honest About First-Time Parenting

By at 10:05 am

newborn

After giving birth to my second child about a month ago, I shared a hospital room with a woman whom I’d describe as one of the most cheerful and glass-half-full people I’ve ever met. Mara–the polar opposite of a jaded New Yorker–is a midwestern transplant to New York whose optimism felt contagious.

Despite having just come out of a very difficult 24-hour labor, she was nearly all-smiles–friendly and kind to everyone who came in and out of our room (and anyone who’s given birth in a hospital knows that lots of people come in and out post-labor). I will never forget how excited she got each time she was served the hospital food, which I, of the more jaded New Yorker variety, barely touched, and managed to complain about plenty.

It wasn’t until after several unsuccessful attempts to breastfeed her less-than-one-day-old son that I saw Mara’s optimism hit a bump. I could tell just how frustrated, guilty and disappointed she felt because–like every mother on earth–I had been there too, during those early days of motherhood. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 16 2014

MIT Research Group Asks: Why Does the Breast Pump Suck So Much?

By at 2:12 pm

breast-pump

Hate pumping? You’re not alone. Most of those human milk machines are loud, clunky, uncomfortable, and prone to spillage. The double breast pump is especially creepy looking. (Kveller’s Director of Operations, Meredith Lewis, wrote about her love-hate relationship with the breast pump here.)

But pumping is important, not just for working moms who want to stay connected to their infants, but for premature and orphaned babies that rely on pumped milk for survival.

That’s why MIT Media Lab is hosting a “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon.” Organized by a group of students and researchers at MIT who are also parents, between 60 and 80 designers, engineers, lactation consultants, parents, and public health researchers have gathered together to brainstorm ways to make life easier for moms and their babies. Cash prizes range from $1,000 to $3,000, sponsored by breast pump manufacturers like Modela and Vecna Technologies. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 12 2014

Motherhood Brings Out My Superstitious Side

By at 9:45 am

Alicia-Elija

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Ki Tavo. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Sometimes, during these first few weeks of my newborn son Elijah’s life, I find myself overwhelmed by gratitude for him. I tend to write about the harder parts of motherhood, but in this moment I’m just bowled over by the beauty, mystery, and ridiculous cuteness of this little guy in a froggie onesie.

What do I do with all this raw emotion, this overwhelming love? Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

Is It Too Early to Call My Baby a Girl?

By at 10:14 am

baby in turtle pajamas

I don’t like surprises.

That’s how I explained our decision to find out, as early as possible, if we were having a boy or a girl. And as soon as the verdict was in, out it went on Facebook and into excited texts to our parents. My mother-in-law found out while she was in an airplane, en route to Maine for Christmas, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she told the whole plane.

So there you have it, right? Penrose is a girl. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 7 2014

The Trauma of First-Time Parenthood

By at 10:02 am

Tamara-newborn-nap

When we brought our newborn daughter home, she nursed around the clock with a ferocious latch. It felt as if I was putting my nipple into a stapler and then having the milk sucked out by an expensive Dyson.

If I were a first-time mama, I would have been convinced I had no milk and faulty nipples. I would have probably also convinced myself that my baby was tongue tied, lip-tied, or whatever bad-latch karma was going around the internet at the time. But what I now know to be true, after successfully nursing her two older brothers, is that I always have nipple sensitivity in the first few weeks and my daughter was gaining more than enough weight, despite a small mouth and slightly shallow latch.

As expected, after two weeks it all went away. She still nurses around the clock, but it is normal–even biological–for her to want to be nourished by me, held by me, and comforted by me. She won’t always want to be this close to me. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 27 2014

What If Moses Just Needed an Afternoon Off?

By at 11:34 am

HOMEBIRTH

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This week we read Parashat Hukkat. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Like many of us modern, educated ladies, I was spectacularly ignorant about babies until I had one a couple years ago. So the learning curve, similar to my pregnancy weight gain, was pretty damn steep.

Now, with baby #2 due in a month, I’ve been noticing how different it feels this time around, and taking stock of what I’ve learned…(Though yes, I know every baby’s different and I’ve been told a million times how much harder it is with two kids!) Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 23 2014

Why I Changed My Mind About the Tdap Vaccine Booster

By at 11:22 am

tdap-ryan-gossling-meme

I’m entering into my ninth month of pregnancy; I’ve lost all verbal filters that I normally employ and for the most part I either explode or cry. I wasn’t this bad when I was pregnant with the boys (although I was still, admittedly, super crazy) and perhaps it is a combination of managing my 4-year-old’s emotions and chasing after my toddler with fierce hip pain and heartburn, but I want to verbally assault anyone who even looks at me wrong. I’m cranky. So that’s where I’m at.

Around my 27 week prenatal visit my midwives gave me a generic CDC handout offering me a Tdap (Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis) booster. The standard guidelines are for the vaccine to be boostered every 10 years and the sheet also said “or with each pregnancy.” Since I was boostered 18 months ago when my second son was born I felt like it was overkill to do it again. I asked both the midwives and my children’s pediatrician what the rationale behind the “with each pregnancy” was and neither had any convincing talking points. The midwife said, “there may be waning immunity during pregnancy.”

I am not one to decline vaccines. My husband is a doctor and we both have Master of Public Health degrees. But I like to educate myself about the options and make a decision based on current evidence-based research coupled with our personal family circumstances (or, like, just go with the opposite of anything Jenny McCarthy says). The information provided wasn’t compelling enough for me to vaccinate myself again. I had just finished up 20 weeks of painful progesterone injections and have bruised hips to show for it. More needles? No, thanks. Read the rest of this entry →

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