Monday, May 14, 2018

Labor Movement

I was getting ready for work this morning, the Monday after Mother's Day, donning the dress I'd dreamed about last night as I was drifting off, but not before feeding and changing the five-month-old lest said dress get soiled, still riding the high of thoughtful Mother's Day sentiments and sweet moments with my man and son.

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So young. So wise.

My brain was flipping through the day's agenda, making sure the milk pumping gear was clean and handy, Era's blanket and sheet for daycare were laundered and ready, his pumped milk bottles were sterilized and stowed in their cooler, and my passably ingestible protein shake was packed in my purse.

While whizzing through the kitchen, I placed dishes in the dishwasher then snagged a jacket to hang up because I was going to the closet anyway, to choose the shoes I hoped would be most appropriate for the forecast.

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Getting ready for the day

I stood by the door, poised to launch. And I felt, for the first time, a dread. I did not want to come home tonight.

I just didn't want to do this all over again. The millions of decisions, the tiny moving parts that interconnect to keep my family thriving, the crushing minutiae that I never seem to get caught up on.

Even after a weekend spent celebrating my efforts to care for kid and castle, I was drained and frayed and just exhausted.

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At the end of a long day

So, like the rational individual I am, I did the only thing I could: had a complete meltdown on my husband, the one person who stands by me in these parenting trenches. It wasn't honorable, but it did feel somehow inevitable.

Quincy is a primo partner and nothing in the sobbing litany I espoused in our little threshold could communicate what was really crushing me: the psychic weight of maintaining everything.

At work, I manage projects with a team, and the work is divided. I am rewarded for my toil. My efforts are applauded and responsibilities awarded incrementally. Believe me when I say that I'm aware of how marvelous and rare that is. And looking at a day of professional challenges followed by a night of thankless exertion was damn near unbearable.

And now, here I sit: pumping milk in a dimly lit executive office, pouring out my heart while pouring out sustenance for my son. And I want to go home. I want to squeeze my boy and joke with my man and all those tiny tasks now seem more than worth the work.

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Father-son convo

One giggle fit from my kid, and I float through an afternoon. One feisty moment with Quincy can kindle me all evening. Life is extremely hard right now, but it's definitely not devoid of joy. There are dozens of details that I know I will miss terribly. The bottomless adoration of a tiny human and the opportunity to grow deeper in love with my partner. These things are enough.


What can I do?

Apologize to Quincy. Come home. Wash the milk bottles, change the diapers, and nurse the baby in the dead of night.

Then, wake up and do it all again tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Feeling Frenzy

I don't see myself as sentimental and I take secret pride in being a discerning snob. Laurie, my ever-snarky sister, once dubbed me Frosty the Snow Bitch, and it was a title I took seriously. I had honed an Olympic eye-roll.

But man. Parenthood.

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Me and my 16-week-old 

When wailing to Laurie about my fears for Era as he entered daycare, she charmingly reassured me, "Feelings suck. I'm sorry you have them now, Melty the SunnySoftie."

When my lovely baby pooped through all of his warm clothes at daycare, I made an extra stop at lunch to retrieve a pair of infant pants to protect him from the over-air-conditioned climate.

"I brought Era some pants," I sheepishly told the caretaker on duty. "I think he might be cold." But when I returned later that evening, Era was happily cooing at the daycare employee sans pants. I was inconsolable. I never before thought myself capable of rage-crying because my progeny endured an afternoon of frosty haunches. (He has since been relocated to a less frigid and indifferent daycare.)

Whatever stoic insouciance I once exhibited has been replaced with softhearted sap.


Mom. It's not really that big a deal.


And there's more. I impulsively squashed an ant on my desk last week (it's Florida; vermin are rife), then paused for a moment, overcome. "That ant was somebody's son," I sadly whispered to myself.

Then: "Holy crap. What is happening to me?"

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Somebody's son

Mere months ago, I was a scoffing virtuoso. When at the pinnacle of pregnancy, elderly neighbors would enjoin me admire their grandkids and I would employ my famous eye-roll. Other people's babies. Bleh. At the time, my own kid was the only baby that had ever interested me. (Not that I don't think y'all's babies are cute. I do.)

That's all changed. At the aforementioned daycare, one of Era's compatriots was a scrawny six-month-old in foster care. As I fed Era at lunch, a caretaker would extoll this little lady's myriad issues. I would watch her explore piles of plastic animals and try to resist whisking her away with us. She was a baby in need and my cheesy heart just broke for her. It's hard to reconcile my sense of self as a lady who struggles with the urge to abduct a strange infant.

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Schmoop x million

My emotional 180 was truly crystallized for me the other day as I texted Lisa, a dear friend with a beautiful babe a few weeks younger than Era.

"She's so great, though," Lisa said. "We don't deserve her."

Harper Bea, Lisa's baby
Lisa's little Harper Bea is Harper Bea-Utiful

I've heard this sentiment before. Prior to parenthood, I would read comments akin to that and employ epic eye-rolling. "You feel lucky to have a tiny human commandeer your life? Your baby should be grateful that you like her enough to cater to her every whim!"

But instead of rolling, my eyes got misty.

"I know," I wrote. "How did we get so damned lucky?"

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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Breast of the Story

Greetings from seven weeks postpartum!

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If you need me, I'll just be staring into these eyes all day long.

I am well. Era is doing well. He's a healthy human heifer and I love it. He's in the 98th percentile for weight, length, and head size, so, needless to say, this kid is not missing any meals.

And that's why I wanted to yap about breastfeeding. It's amazing! It's crazy! It's weird! And right now, it's my life.

I.


I took an ABCs of Breastfeeding class before my boy was born. This is kinda what I expected:

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Put that coffee down. Coffee contains caffeine and may upset your baby's stomach.

I guess it's for the best that the sweet Canadian grandmother who lead our class didn't call us names à la Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, but she did lay some heavy truths on us. Your nipples will hurt. Kids sometimes can't figure out the whole latching deal. You will basically be an on-call buffet.

While the technical aspects of feeding a tiny human with your body were helpful, this class was invaluable to me primarily because it prepared me for the haze of days with a newborn. For the first time, the reality of waking every couple hours to feed a new person dawned on me. I was going to be exhausted. I was going to be counting poops. I was going to need help.

When I met Quincy for dinner after the class, I was brimming with new information and ready to have hard conversations over hard tacos about the size of a newborn's stomach, the intricacies of nipple care, and the power of a well-placed pillow.

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Go and do likewise, gents.

I could - and did - research baby care all day long, but that class was what really got me ready for new motherhood.

And it takes brass balls.

II.


Everything I read about breastfeeding chirped with an upbeat tone:
- If you do it right, breastfeeding will not hurt.
- It takes about 20 feedings for your nipples to toughen up.

LIES.

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Early morning feeding with my chubby, uncharacteristically grumpy boy

Era was a pro at latching and basically taught me everything I needed to know about keeping him in milk. However, even his expert abilities didn't mean pain-free chest time. It took a solid three weeks  of consistent milking sessions before I quit wincing at each feeding.

Now, I don't think twice about stuffing a nipple in his kisser, but it was a long slog of lanolin applications, shielding my sore tatas from the hot water in the shower, and exploring supportive undergarments.

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"Seconds, please."

Hurty boobs are the worst, but I never considered other options because, let's face it: bottle feeding is way more work.

III.


I recently polished off a two-pound tin of butter cookies. I regularly eat my entire burrito at Chipotle. I have a "usual" order at Dairy Queen.

I've always been a pretty good eater, but nothing in my life can compare to the famished feelings I have as a lactating lady. I mean, I've been hungry before. I've been so starved, I felt sick. But this is an active, loud hankering unlike anything I've ever experienced. If being peckish is a gurgle in the gut, this is a rapacious racket resonating throughout my entire being.

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We're both always hungry.

They say that breastfeeding broads should ingest about 500 more calories than normal. I have no idea how many calories I'm cramming, but I do know that I want all of them to be ice cream. Or cookie dough. Or some combination of the two.

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You don't get cheeks like these by missing meals.

I will divulge that I am just about back to my pre-pregnancy weight, so I have to assume that everything is going straight from that Lucky Charms box to Era's irrepressible cheeks. Thank goodness.


IV.


In the early days after Era arrived, I read an article in the Stranger about nursing, and was blown away by the preternatural powers of breastmilk. To help the little one begin to differentiate daytime from night, my body was slipping the appropriate hormones into my milk. The researcher quoted in the article noted that "day milk is going to have a completely different hormonal milieu than night milk."

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Sleeping babe, sleepy mom

And thus, this musical parody was born.

Night Milk (to the tune of Bob Seger's Night Moves)

He's a little large
Puttting on a few pounds
Size three diapers fit best, we found
I'm a sleepy mommy with bags under eyes
Rolling out of bed to this little one's cries
So loud, these cries

In the dark house, where the cats run scared
In the comfort of my family's rocking chair
Working on the mysteries of what makes babies tick

Workin' on the night milk
Hoping that my hormones do the trick
Workin' on the night milk
In the dark nighttime
Mmmm
In the stinking darkest nighttime


V.


I know that breastfeeding isn't for everyone. (Especially grown-ass adults. Get out of my Flickr feed, fetishists!)

Frankly, it's been a little rough being at the beck and call of a baby, but feeding my kid with my body is just the latest miracle in the long strange trip that is motherhood. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have this connection with my kid, and keep trying to remain grateful. Even in the middle of the night.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

In Full Revue

Happy 2018!

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2017 was year, amirite? For me, it was a crazy ride of disappointment, career growth, a deeper relationship with my partner, a new babe, and ultimately, hope for what the future holds.

I'm not sure that is all reflected in this, the list of songs I fell in love with this year. But, it is a tiny time capsule that reflects much of where my mind lingered these last 12 months.

2017 in Revue

1. Astral Plane - Valerie June
2. Inigradan - Fatou Seidi Ghali, Alamnou Akrouni
3. Roly Poly - Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
4. Wearing Nothing - Dagny
5. Wait - The J. Geils Band
6. (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) - Hotrats
7. Hitler Lives - Rosalie Allen
8. May I Have This Dance (Remix) - Francis and the Lights feat. Chance the Rapper
9. Only God Knows - Young Fathers feat. Leith Congregational Choir
10. Sin City - Donald E. Clare

Download the mix.

Listen to the mix on YouTube. - Though, this is missing the last track.

Or, if you're inclined to trade mixes, email me and I will mail you a CD with one of the handmade blocks pictured above.

I hope your 2018 is starting off hopefully.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A New Era

Earlier this year, my sister Laurie and I were walking around St. Petersburg, Florida, telling her coworker Maggie about my wedding.

"So, I flew home and tried on my mom's wedding dress," I extolled. "And it just happened to fit perfectly. Which was awesome because I married Quincy the next day and it wasn't like I'd have time to get it altered."

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Here's a random picture of me in my momma's wedding dress

I was trying to paint of picture of myself as the quintessential goofball, unable to plan appropriately and saved by the grace of my loved ones.

But with a quasi-exasperated eyeroll, Laurie turned to Maggie and explained it this way: "Because reality has a way of bending to Becky's whims."

I've thought about Laurie's words a thousand times since that moment, not only because her younger-sister annoyance makes me laugh, but because I truly feel like a inexplicably lucky person.

Which brings me to the birth of my son.

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Spoiler alert: This story has a happy ending

Whenever anyone asked about my plans for the birth, I kept saying, "All options are on the table." I mean, I've never done this before and I don't know what will happen, so why stress about the perfect delivery?

But even though that informed, open-mind would be the most rational tack, I think everyone has that vision of what the best case scenario would be. For me, I had imagined laboring as a team with Quincy, dealing with the pain through those cute coping techniques Lamaze taught, and bringing Era into the world without an epidural.

Well, I'm telling you: When the contractions started kicking in, I forgot all about laboring tips and comforting techniques. Also, I forgot where my go bag was, how to time a contraction and how to walk.

I was under the misguided impression that the contractions would start slowly and at a low intensity and then build. That is not what happened. I had a monster contraction at 7 a.m. as I snoozed and by the time I started timing them at 8:15 (Oh wait! I have a app for this. Phone. Must phone. Where app? AGH.), they were three minutes apart.

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It's getting real.

Quincy flew around the apartment to gather the supplies we needed and make sure the cats would survive our absence and we made the 30 minute drive to our hospital, arriving at 9:30. I was 7 centimeters dilated and clinging to the hope that an epidural would be forthcoming. Dr. Beck, the OB on call that weekend, held her face close to mine and, with her hand on my shoulder, asked me to mentally prepare for the possibility that we wouldn't have time for an epidural.

Needless to say, I was not mentally prepared for anything.

Quincy was, though. Whenever the contractions came, he used one of the Lamaze tricks and applied counter-pressure to my lower back, which helped. He was calm and focused and amazing.

And then, it was time to push. And then, Era was here. At 11:30 a.m., all nine pounds, nine ounces of our little boy entered the world. No epidural, just a ridiculously short labor and a healthy, hefty baby. It happened so quickly, I spent the next day just convincing myself that it actually happened.

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Brand new babe

One of the labor nurses said I was an Amazon. I would like that as my epitaph.

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My folks on the left and Quincy's on the right

Fortunately, my parents and Quincy's had time to arrive and admire their first grandchild. And when Laurie and her husband came, Laurie sat on the corner of my bed and soaked in the whole delivery story. And in a quasi-annoyed voice, she said, "Of course. Reality has a way of bending to Becky's whims."

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Handsomest three-day-old ever

And I truly feel like it has. It was a unbelievable, beautiful, crazy wonderful experience. Not even my English degree and thesaurus.com can cobble together the words to express the gift of this quick, amazing labor.

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Party of three

And now I'm a mom. We're a family.

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Some of us are happier about that than others

Era Eventide Robinson
Nov. 25, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.
9 pounds, 9 ounces
21.5 inches long
Perfect

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pregnant Pause: Kingdom of Feels

Just in case no one has told you, being pregnant is not that fun.

Making peace with a changing body, weeks 6 - 39

Just ask my sister - I doubt she'll ever procreate after listening to me list the myriad unpleasant consequences of expecting. (It's my own fault... There's just something really satisfying about laying the concept of "lightening crotch" on a pregnancy newbie.)

However, I like to save my complaints for loved ones who cannot escape my phone calls. Here, I will detail the aspects of creating a new human that I will miss.

What I Will Miss About Being Pregnant


1. Being congratulated for going to work.

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Not at work... At MacArthur Beach State Park at 40 weeks, 3 days

I have felt unreasonably well for most of my gravid adventures, so rolling into work past-due was no big deal. But, even though I felt completely copacetic, my caring coworkers made a completely enjoyable fuss over my continued work activity.

I will miss hearing a hearty, "I can't believe you're here!" upon rolling into work 20 minutes late and wearing the same outfit I wore last week.

2. Being encouraged to have sex.

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Pretty sure he's ready for parenthood

Weeks ago, my doc told me, "If you want to get out of this, you need to do what got you into this." Everyone from those awesome coworkers to friends, family and of course, my parents have nudged my husband with a knowing smile and goaded us to get it on.

Not since we got hitched has our love life been so sanctioned.

3. Receiving lavish attention.

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Beautiful words from a beautiful friend

It's no secret that I'm a spectacular spotlight hog and I'm telling you, if you want to stop traffic, have involved conversations with complete strangers and be constantly complimented on your cuteness, being preggo is the way to go. At one point last week, I was surrounded by no fewer than six Macy's make-up counter attendants as they squealed the sweetest compliments about my bulbous body.

Heaven.

4. Tooting with impunity.

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I found your problem right here. (From the notes from my non stress test.)

That's all I've got to say about that.

5. Sharing magical, intimate moments with my little boy.

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I'm currently lounging on a loveseat, typing onto a laptop, and listening to a pillow salesman on the television. And, throughout this entire mundane experience, my unborn boy, half me and half the man I love, has been rolling around, filling my middle with an indescribable miracle.

It's mind-bending and magical and I'm savoring every secret moment he and I share.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pregnant Pause: The Great Snark Hunt

I.
Literally no strangers have touched my tummy. None.

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I mean, I touch it all the time. 37 weeks

I get tons of questions and comments and so far, 15 total strangers have correctly identified the gender of my baby based solely on the basketball-like nature of my bump.

But unapproved palms on my protrusion? Zero.

I'm going to chalk this up to a rockin' case of Resting Bitch Face and thank my luck stars.

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Literally resting bitch face at 37 weeks

II.
My new theme song:

Cankle In The Wind

Goodbye, normal jeans
Though I seldom wore you at all
I had the choice to don myself
In whatever in my closet called
Platforms and tailored trousers
Heels, they whisper into my brain
They set me down a spiral
And I prop up my feet in shame

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Cankle camouflage at 36 weeks

And it seems to me, I'm living life
Like a cankle in the wind
Never knowing what to put on
Over swollen skin
And I would have liked to look cute
But I'm making a kid
My cankles bum me out
More than heartburn ever did

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Be-cankled kitty kisses at 36 weeks

III.
The other day, the handle on my awesome pink water bottle snapped, and it crashed to the floor of my office.

What did I yell?

"Oh shit! My water broke!"

Broken water bottle
Pro Tip: Do not text this story to your husband. He will not think it's funny.

Fortunately, my boss saw the whole thing and squelched the alarm before my coworkers could bring out the tarps.