Summer Walks

Two words: stroller fan.

If you’re building a baby registry, add one for the baby and one to point back at yourself.

We met up with a friend for a stroller walk in the high noon heat of July, and their baby had a little stroller fan pointed at him. I thought, “Oh, to be part of the uppity, high maintenance stroller elite who require a fan for their sweet babe.” Reader? I am an idiot. I needed 18 stroller fans just for myself. Global warming!

My son rarely wears anything except for a diaper these days, and I always have a straw cup with water to offer him hydration breaks when we’re out on walks. We try to go first thing after his breakfast before the Midwest humidity absolutely murders us, but even then, I’ve had to deal with the judgment of neighbors commenting, “Kinda hot out for a baby, eh?” Kindly shove your head up your own butt & mind your own beeswax, MA’AM.

Don’t Send Flowers

To the friends and family members of people who have just given birth: do not send flowers to the hospital.

This isn’t a commentary on “flowers die, pizza gift cards live forever” (but seriously, food > flowers.) Send whatever dying soon flowers you want, or a potted plant, or a beautiful orchid– it’s none of my business! Just send it to the house and not the hospital.

Hospital rooms might not be the prettiest place one could ever sleep, but hopefully parents will only be spending up to three nights there. The patient will be too sleep-deprived and in love with their newborn(s) to care if a floral bouquet is brightening the bedside table. When they leave, they will have an absolute armload of things to carry out. Duffel bags of clothes, the Boppy they thought they’d use but probably didn’t, packets of newborn info with copies of hospital consents, plus a car seat holding a very fresh baby. They don’t have the arm space to also load up the car with your well-intentioned detritus.

Kids’ Music

Our tyke has always loved music, and he’s started to bop along and “dance” so I’m dead from the adorableness. A friend of mine introduced us to Raffi, who I’d never heard of previously, and now he’s a frequent Spotify play in our house on the Alexa/ government listening device.

Raffi is hokey kids’ music- I’ve already got all the lyrics down to “Banana Phone”!- but our son loves it, so I guess this type of music exists for a reason. So many pregnancy advice books told me to find a song we could play to the kid in utero that would be his favorite when he burst forth, but we’re not hugely musical people and never found the “right” one. Poor kid did listen to “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande at least 100 times during my pregnancy, though, so maybe we should revisit it??

I try to play him Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel and his dad plays him The Beatles a lot because… I don’t know, we’re trying to culture him? Make him a really cool, old soul seven-month-old? Or probably because he’s too young and impressionable to actually be exposed to my garbage music preferences of Fall Out Boy songs popular in high school, explicit Cardi B, and “Bulls on Parade.” I should play him the Space Jam soundtrack more since that’s hands down the best movie soundtrack of all time.

Babies do love a full musical performance, so if you know the lyrics, I can recommend ELO and Meatloaf, though you’ll feel positively ancient and that you’ve already turned into the embarrassing parent you promised yourself you wouldn’t be. So, Raffi. Thanks, Rachael, for the music tip. I now pass it along to you, dear reader.

Pregnancy Laughs

One thing I miss about pregnancy (there isn’t much!) is the extra hormones that cause big emotions. It wasn’t super fun when it ended in tears- my husband has a video of me happy crying over the announcement that Big 10 football would be returning in the fall (???!!)- but they can also make you have laughing fits over things that, looking back, probably weren’t that funny. I realized a few weeks after the baby was born, “I haven’t laughed in a while… I miss that.”

Old People Facebook was a constant source of laughing to near tears. I also watched a ton of inappropriate best of Eric Andre compilations. If you’re currently pregnant, enjoy your giant laughing fits. You’re not losing your mind; it’s a normal side effect. If you’re postpartum and need some levity, I can’t recommend enough the book Sh*t, Actually by Lindy West. A friend sent it in a new mom care package for me (Rachael, you da real MVP) at a time when I thought I would never be able to have alone time to read a book again. Each essay was a source of true belly laughs, including my new favorite line from any book, ever, when she’s recapping the movie Top Gun: “It was Goose’s last honk.”

Currently Singing

“Ima Ima Ima fuss boy

ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah

Look at me whine!

ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah

Ima Ima Ima fuss boy”

to the tune of the Weeknd’s “Starboy,” obviously.

We’re in the middle of a very fussy phase during Leap 5. Jim Carrey was wrong– this isn’t the most annoying sound in the world; the constant whine of a child who is perfectly fine yet upset with everything in life is.

Will I Ever Not Feel Insane?

Spoiler alert: no!

I can’t, in good conscious, recommend parenthood if your grip on reality is already tenuous. At least once a week I text my husband, “Motherhood is insane.” I have many theories on why this seems to get worse with each generation, mostly hinging on the Internet and social media and the ubiquitous nature of constantly seeing other parents in action, all the time, but only the pretty parts. My brain has decided it will literally never be satisfied no matter how I arrange the sizes of my life pie chart: baby, self, marriage, work, etc.

EXAMPLE TIME.

The first 16 weeks of baby’s life: Please sleep. Please take a nap. Please nap longer! Your brain needs good sleep to grow, baby. I need more than 40 minutes in which to cram sending emails/ showering /eating/ unloading the dishwasher/ paying that bill/ will I ever work out again? Insert here a lot of pleading with all known and perceived deities to just please help my baby get quality naps in.

The 17th week, when we implemented the Ferber Method and the kid now consistently naps more than an hour: I am a horrible person. I just got in a virtual work out AND showered AND had breakfast AND am starting work emails and he’s not awake!? He probably thinks I hate him. He doesn’t even need me anymore. He’s so cute– I wonder what he’s doing in there. Probably looking really adorable while he sleeps. I feel so guilty for enjoying this time without him. What kind of monster person wants their kid to sleep this long.

Truly, this is mental hell. Women in the 1950s couldn’t possibly have given this many shits, right?? I mean, I know a lot of not-that-well-adjusted people born in that era, so I think a cultural swing towards more involved parenting was warranted, but still. Something about pouring a mid-day martini while baby is safely alive in a playpen sounds very chic (or maybe they just needed something to help turn off their brains from the barrage of parenthood contradictions playing on a loop in their heads? IS THAT WHY THE SHOW IS CALLED MAD MEN?!)

Another example.

I spend all day with my chunky dinosaur boo-by baby. When he’s awake, we’re playing or I’m feeding him or I’m shaking a toy in his face and trying to not feel terrible for also working on my phone with the other hand. The other day was just a long day. Baby wasn’t grumpy, it was just physically many hours on the clock until my husband got home from work. I knew I needed to leave the house, so I booked the last available in-studio Pure Barre class and kissed my loves good-bye. And halfway through my workout, I thought, “I miss him.” WHY. WHAT. You’re exhausting me, hormonal brain. He is safe at home with his father! It’s important for them to have alone time! You spent all day waiting for a break, and when you got one, you feel an insane pull to immediately return?!

Just… give in the insanity, Natalie. There’s no use fighting it. It is helpful to talk about it. You can text me when it happens, and I will say, “Yes, you are crazy. I’m crazy, too. But please don’t pour a martini at noon or I’m calling the cops.”

An Ode to my Scalp

i always knew you were there

but we’d never met.

you’re in all the worn photos of my own childhood

a bald baby til almost a bald toddler.

we had 31 years of peace, symbiosis

hair grew, chicken pox briefly visited, lathered on in the shower but never worried about

and then.

i saw you. just last week. why.

you’ve made yourself known. i see more and more of you as the hair leaves

the hair the hair the hair is everywhere

hair on the baby. hair in the shower. hair on the pillow. hair on the husband.

goodbye, hair

hello, scalp

i didn’t want to meet you.

I Don’t Think So, Honey

I Don’t Think So, Honey is a segment in which we take one minute to rail against something in culture… You have 60 seconds and your time. starts. now!” –Las Culturistas, the greatest podcast of all time.

I don’t think so, honey: the phrase good baby. “Is he a good baby?” “Oh, you’re being such a good baby!” What? I didn’t realize there were babies out here roaming the streets in evil gangs- glad I got a “good” one! I know what you’re asking when you inquire if my son is a good baby– does he sleep well through the night? He absolutely does not, honey! Yes, my baby is good because all babies are good because good is a ridiculous adjective to put on an actual infant. You’re equating goodness with easiness, and just as with everything in life, the ease of taking care of your offspring is all sorts of shades of gray. This shit is hard as hell, whether you have all the support in the world or are a single mother of octuplets. Telling a friend to count their blessings or stop complaining (yes, actual mothers really say these kinds of things to other mothers) because their baby is “easy” is an easy way of making that person despise you! No, my child isn’t a classically “good baby” in that he still wakes up many times a night and has a lot of feelings that equate to not smiling much at strangers. This doesn’t mean he’s a bad baby! There is no such thing as a good or bad baby because they’re not actually making moral choices fresh out the womb!! Labeling babies are good or bad is a one-way ticket to the kinds of self-esteem and anxiety issues that lead a person to starting an advice blog for their pregnant friend on like two hours of sleep per night! Babies are many things: cute, stubborn, sleepy, loved, joyful, smelly, loud, squishy, but babies aren’t good or bad or easy. I don’t think so, honey!

“…and that’s one minute.” Seriously, I worship at the altar of Matt & Bowen.

Early Pregnancy Advice

If you’ve recently found out you’re expecting for the first time, congratulations. My number one piece of advice as you begin to tell others the news is: lie like a damn rug about your due date.

If your EDD is 10/19 (me!) tell people that baby’s due date is the first week of November. Give yourself at least a two week buffer, but not because first time babies often arrive late. This is to protect your sanity and your relationship with those around you in those final few weeks of pregnancy.

Sometime around 38 weeks, the texts will start. They’ll seem innocent at first– of course people mean well. “Just checking in!” “Any signs of baby yet?” Maybe you’re a nicer person than me (most everyone is) and you’ll think it’s so lovely that people care. But maybe you’ve been isolated for most of your pregnancy due to a pandemic and really thought this baby would be coming early so your fuse is shorter than normal. This is why you lie from the beginning.

If you’re still pregnant a week before your actual due date and you haven’t taken my advice, the texts become phone calls. “When’s that baby coming?” I DON’T KNOW, GRANDMA. Shut off your phone. Just shut it down. Absolutely nothing constructive will come out of your mouth after 39 weeks. You will not need reminders from everyone around you that you’re pregnant. Did people do this in the olden days before instant communication? I doubt it. Pretend it’s still 1954, Linda, and don’t waste a phone call on, “You had that baby yet?” You are 100% allowed to get snarky as hell. “Oh shit, there’s a baby coming?!” Save a Google images photo of a baby of a different race than yours will be and text it to people, “He arrived last week. Forgot to tell you!” (Is that problematic? Probably.)

My frustration came from: 1- if you’re close enough to me to inquire about the status of my uterus, you will be told when it’s empty. It’s not like we’ve kept the pregnancy from you; why would the birth be any different?! and 2- No one, and I mean no one, Mother, wants this baby out more than me. I want to meet him. I want to see what he looks like. I don’t need you reminding me every day that he’s not here yet. The WORST is when they follow it up with “Oh well, he’ll come when he comes.” THEN WHY DID YOU ASK. I don’t want your platitudes, I want an induction!!

Tangential advice to anyone with a pregnant person in your lives, if you hadn’t picked up on it already: don’t ask. Don’t ask the due date from the beginning. Don’t ask towards the end where the baby is. You’ll be told when you’re told. All I know about Natalie’s baby is that it’s allegedly arriving in March. Am I fully in my rights to start texting her the last week of February since NATALIE HERSELF violated all of the above rules and bothered me late in my pregnancy? I am. But I won’t because I’ve been there, and I know that she doesn’t need a reminder from me that something very big is about to happen. If I haven’t heard anything by mid-May, I might pick up the phone.