Hands-On Dad.

My husband is smitten with our daughter. He tries to spend as much time with her as his crazy job allows. Earlier today, Greg diapered and dressed Baby C before leaving for work. "Look - pretty in pink," said he, formerly adverse to pink and formerly frightened of small girl children. He closed the last snap with a flourish, not realizing that he put her jumper on backwards.

Tonight, he came home from work and disappeared with the baby. When they resurfaced, the child was decked out in a Boston College Eagles tee shirt that was at least three sizes too big, and a Boston Red Sox stocking cap. My husband wore a matching tee shirt. I left them watching two games at once on the split-screen TV. One side showed college football, where the BC Eagles were battling Virginia Tech. The other side displayed the World Series, where the BoSox were leading the Colorado Rockies. Baby C managed to look every inch the dedicated fan, even with her eyes closed, even with her hat on backwards.

Breaking the Code

I am nursing Baby C for now, although last week I was ready to ditch the whole enterprise and go straight to formula. Heck, I would have gone straight to a chemical-laden, artificial everything, magical drug elixir if it had been an option.

Before I gave birth, all of my Mommy Friends said that breastfeeding "does take some getting used to." That's actually code for "breastfeeding is the most excruciatingly painful thing you will ever experience." It hurts like hell - and that's the G-rated version of what I was saying last week. It can involve blisters on places that have never seen the light of day. It can involve scabs on those same places. And blood. And you know the pain awaits you every two to three hours, and you have been scared by the LaLeche league not to even let your baby look at a bottle for fear of causing them "nipple confusion."

Add in some sleep deprivation and post-partum hormones and you have quite the recipe for fun. Just ask my husband, who made the grave mistake of trying to give me helpful breastfeeding pointers he remembered from the parenting class we took. Not helpful, husband.

Experts say that breastfeeding only hurts if you are doing something wrong, which means that on top of mind-numbing, white-knuckle pain, you feel like a failure as a new mother. Not helpful, experts.

Although I had no reason to trust my Mommy Friends, when I called them in agony, their new story was that the pain would go away after a couple of hard days. Greg, figuring I might not unleash my hormonal wrath on a complete stranger, called in a lactation consultant. She had a few good tips, but it was mostly a matter of time. We survived the initiation period. Baby C is gaining weight. Best of all, New Mommy has stopped crying. But don't say she didn't warn you.

Ma’am, yes Ma’am!

As a recruit to parental boot camp, I'm finding my drill sergeant to be a little harsh. She doesn't care about trite distinctions such as "daytime" or "nighttime". In fact, the hours between 1:00 and 4:30 a.m. are our most intense.

Hmmm. Perhaps I DO need to rename this blog.

She plays mind games with me – here’s what last night's scene looked like.


Setting: A darkened house with one light on in the front bedroom. Baby Barracuda is red-faced, and screaming at New Mommy.

Baby Barracuda: Guess why I’m crying?

New Mommy: You’re hungry?

Baby Barracuda: WRONG!

New Mommy: You’re wet?

Baby Barracuda (after New Mommy navigates the obstacle course of the snaps on her sleepers): WRONG!

New Mommy: You’re sleepy?

Baby Barracuda: WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! I am hungry, you clueless grunt.

New Mommy: But… but you said you weren’t hungry before. Plus, you just ate an hour ago. Are you sure you’re hungry?

Baby Barracuda: FEED ME NOW!!


So far, I’ve been assigned to diaper duty and mess hall. Luckily, fellow recruits include my husband and parents. We make a great team, although they seem to have avoided mess hall. My parents ship out for R&R in another week and a half, so I’m enjoying the camaraderie while it lasts.

Gotta run – she’s calling again.

It's a Girl!

Baby C defied my expectations--not for the first time, I'm sure--by being born a girl. I had convinced myself that I'd been toting around a bouncing baby boy, and was actually nervous that I would be disappointed if he turned out to be a she. But, from her first angry squawks at birth, I was completely smitten and feel only teary gratitude. Oh, and exhaustion. Yep, I'd say teary, exhausted gratitude. Oh, and pain. Not from the c-section, because they have wonderful drugs nowadays, but from feeding the baby. So: teary, exhausted, pain-filled gratitude. And it's great. (And before you think it's just the drugs talking, I'm only on Tylenol right now).

So, she's gorgeous. Me, biased? A perfect little heart shaped face with dark blue eyes that might turn brown. And she's sporting an amazing cap of black, spiky hair that contrasts beautifully with her little pink bow mouth. As we left the hospital, she gazed around with a very pensive look on her face, as if to say to whomever could intervene, "Are you really going to let me go with two such clueless people?"

And the adventure begins...


Once upon a time, say over 9 months ago, if I had a good hair day (rare) and was wearing a cute outfit (rarer), I would sometimes notice that a cute boy noticed me. Just in passing, but it did happen, as these things do.

When I started showing, though, my freefall off the male radar was swift and complete. The occasional male gaze was replaced by women who would register my swollen middle, catch my eye, and smile gently. It was nice, seeing as I had no use for the cute boys anyway. I appreciated the womens' tacit acknowledgement of what I was going through and headed towards.

On the eve of birth, I am as wide as I am tall. I have gained over a fifth of my original body weight, and it is protruding from my middle, where it occasionally hits innocent passers-by. (Depth perception was never my strong point). Gone are the gazes and the motherly smiles. Now, people wince when they see me coming.

It is time to have this kid.

The End.


Dear Kid,

I thought of this as a letter to my baby, but I know you won’t be a baby forever, so I’m reverting to what your dad and I called you in the womb. “The Kid.” A generic name, but for a very good reason. We didn’t find out whether you were a boy or girl ahead of time, partly because it’s more fun. . . . but mostly to avoid stereotyping you. . . . I honestly can’t imagine how mine and your father’s genes, plus a good dose of environment and your own unique soul will combine.

I suspect that you’ll have great eyes but a troublesome nose (sorry about that). I’m hoping you get your dad’s analytical, inquisitive intelligence and my appreciation of the beauty and irony and mystery in life. I pray that you’re blessed with the gift of knowing who you are and what you want, and that you have the grace and grit to recover from unexpected detours and inevitable roadblocks.

Sweetie, I don’t know what kind of world you’re being born into, but I suppose that’s been the lament of every mother since Eve. I’m not sure what kind of mother you drew, either. I procrastinate and I’m hyper-critical of everything, and I’m pretty lazy about keeping up with housework, although messes make me crazy. I yell when I get angry. I’m impatient. I will try to minimize my known shortcomings’ effects on your life, but I can really only hope I don’t mess you up too badly.

I hope you get to know my dad. . . . He knows kids, because he still is one: interested and curious about each day and every person. . . . He taught himself how to ski and play tennis, and.... he's won every race in greater Chicagoland for his age group. He says things like “Egads", but he swears a lot, too. He whistles the tune of “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy..." He’s hopeless at the computer and with technical things but he embraces them nonetheless. And he’s so excited to have a grandchild!

I hope you get to know my mom, too. . . . She set the motherhood bar very, very high and I’m not sure I’ll be able to reach it. She makes everything better, bringing order to chaos seemingly without effort. She is thoughtful and creative and determined. She seems all business, but don't be fooled. She keeps a little clay plaque that says “Damn everything but the circus” . . . . At the Fourth of July parade in my conservative home town, she yelled at our congressman as he drove by in a convertible about his refusal to support the Equal Rights Amendment. When Aunt Janet came over, they played jacks on the kitchen floor for over an hour and laughed so hard we all came to watch. Her love manifested itself in all she did. She created such a cozy nest that it is still hard to be away from it sometimes. . . . And she can’t wait to hold you in her arms.

Even though we live on the East coast, I hope your childhood resembles in some way my Midwestern upbringing. We had breathing space. We used to drive up to Wisconsin or Michigan to visit our relatives and the fields and sky went on forever. . . . We’d come home from school and call up a friend to come over and play. We ran wild throughout the neighborhood without fear.

Oh, kiddo. How do we give you a stable home but also the skills and hunger to leave it? How do we support you yet challenge you? How do we know when to let you cry it out and when to try to make it all better? How does anyone know these things? All I can tell you is that I will try. Baby, I will try so hard. And I will hope and believe that love will fill in the gaps.

Your dad is getting very excited about your arrival. He is running around trying to take care of everything, and I think he’s a little nervous. You got lucky with your father. He will move heaven and earth to make things okay for the people he loves. He’s a lot of fun and he believes people are generally good, which means that he’ll probably let you get away with more than your cynical mom. His hopes for you–they are high! But really, all he wants is for you to be well and happy. And that’s all I want, too.

We can’t wait to meet you, kiddo. Just two more days now!

Love, your mother.

Party Girl

Last night, our neighbors threw a party. Being new to the neighborhood, it seemed only polite to throw dietary caution to the wind. I cozied up to a cute little bowl of mustard cheese dip and watched the wine flow freely into everyone else. As the evening progressed, the neighborhood gossip escalated from the best dry cleaners in town to speculations about what the mysterious couple in the Cape Cod down the street are really up to. And still I ate from the bowl of mustard cheese dip.

All was well as Greg strolled and I waddled back home. Congratulating ourselves on staying out past midnight, we got into bed. Turns out that the problem with eating healthily throughout pregnancy is that, by the ninth month, the body loses its ability to process mustard cheese dip. The problem was compounded by the fact that the symptoms of not-processing-mustard-cheese-dip are remarkably similar to those that indicate that labor may be imminent. Which is further complicated by the fact that I’m not supposed to go into labor at all—I to have a c-section for medical reasons.

After thoroughly scouring Web MD and other conclusive sources provided by Google, we decided that a trip to the ER at 2:00 AM on a holiday weekend could be avoided. Nearly 24 hours later, we seem to have made the right decision—the kid hasn’t made an appearance and the symptoms have cleared. But my party days are definitely over.

Sister Bovine, Unite!

Luckily, many of our friends and family have small children. They've been great with advice but have also carefully shielded us from the grittier aspects of parenting until they thought we were ready. We're down to the wire now. We've braved Babies R Us. We know about meconium. It is time. With one week left to go, my friend Marina brought out the breast pump.

I have never been more horrified.

Now, it's worth noting that I graduated from a wonderful land-grant university situated in the bucolic loveliness that is Central Illinois. Which is to say: I spent four years surrounded by cows. I witnessed milk's journey from bovine to table and never gave it much thought. But the breast pump brought on some graphic flashbacks, and now I'm sure I remember the resignation on those gentle Holstein faces. I'm switching to soy in solidarity.


In her fabulous book Expecting Adam, Martha Beck writes how the nesting instinct compelled her to scrub out the refrigerator before the birth of each of her children. (I can't quote the passage because I haven't unpacked all of our books since we moved two months ago). My friend Anneliese cleaned her home from top to bottom and mended her other kids' clothes on the eve of Baby No. 3. Mended! With a needle and thread!

I listened eagerly as others attributed nesting to alphabetized DVD collections and organized hall closets. Finally! A positive side effect of pregnancy. I couldn't wait. As a pawn of the mighty forces of Nature herself, I would whip our new home into shape. Pictures would be hung! Papers would be filed!

Unfortunately, I seem to have fallen victim to an equally strong but lesser-reported instinct. It’s called sleeping on the sofa. Nesting may be present to the extent I feel guilty about my to-do list, but it’s powerless to get me off the couch. Looks like my deli drawer is going to have to wait.


Baby C's room is a sea of itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny yellow and green onesies. We haven't found out whether it's a boy or a girl, so we've taken to calling it "the kid", which horrifies both future grandmothers. I have promised myself that we will not bring the kid home without a real name, but selecting a handle has proven to be more difficult than we anticipated.

Greg came home from his business trip on Sunday determined to nail things down. "We've got to settle on our final names now - before the hospital."

Our previous plan had been to meet the kid and see if one of the possibilities seemed right - so Greg's new-found urgency raised my suspicions. He finally confessed that numerous colleagues had told him that he would lose all leverage over name selection once we entered the hospital doors. That made me laugh.

In my opinion, he lost any leverage with my first stretch mark. But it's cute that he still thinks he has some, right?

Nine Days and Counting

Nine days left of sleep, of flitting around with one small purse, of having a Fisher-Price plastic-free house, of calm restaurant dining, of beautiful uninterrupted showers and movies and books. Of spontaneous coffee dates and weekend trips. No sticky fingers or nursing bras or soccer practices or feeding schedules or ear infections or preschool applications. For nine more days.

Greg was out of town last week, and as I woke up every day I thought, "This is one of the last mornings I'll ever have to myself." Okay - maybe forever is stretching it. But how unfathomable that my life - and I say MINE with the fervor of a two-year-old clutching her favorite toy - is about to become all about... not me.

On the cusp of parenthood, it's far easier to envision the loss of things known than to imagine the addition of the great unknown. Maybe Confessions of a Selfish Mommy would be a better name for this blog.

Truthfully, I'm very excited about Baby C's impending arrival. We've waited for years to say "Nine days left!" When conception wasn't quite as forthcoming as all those health class videos would have one believe, I grew wary of celebrating too early. So, nine days out, saying I'm downright thrilled seems like tempting the gods. Better to throw them off-scent with lamentations about broken sleep and sticky upholstery. And Diaper Genies. And nasal aspirators. That should do it.