Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weight, Wait, Weight, Wait, Weight!

Looking back at pictures of myself from high school, I was pretty thin . . . except for my thighs.  Take a look:

I've always had chunky thighs . . . and calves.  I've got huge leg muscles that would be the envy of any linebacker.  Those ham hocks also have a generous layer of fat over them, though.  My legs are an unfortunate combination of my dad's and my mom's legs.  In fact, my mom has sort of apologized to me about the heavy legs, once upon a time.  But like she had control of how the chromosomes lined up . . . .

Anyway, those tree trunks up there could also propel me about three and a half to four feet into the air in dance class.  Somewhere in my parents' house is a picture of that too, and that was pretty cool.  Seriously big muscles give seriously big power.

I think The Boy may have my thighs and calves too.  (Then again, my legs, sadly, sort of look like babies' legs when I'm not in shape . . . like now.  Sigh.)  Hubby says The Boy's legs will be great for tennis when he's older.  I sure hope so.

So because of the legs, I've always felt like I had a weight problem.  Even if I otherwise look good and am a healthy weight, there's always the problem of my mega-thighs lurking around down there.

In adulthood, I also met the problem of physical idleness.  See that tutu and those toe shoes up there?  Those, and the related tap shoes and jazz oxfords, were chiefly how I got my exercise until I was about 20 years old.

Here's a secret for all of you 14-year-old aspiring prima ballerina's out there:  you're probably not going to be leading the New York City Ballet in six to eight years.  In six to eight years, you're probably going to be in college, or possibly grad school, never to put your toe shoes on again, except out of occasional nostalgia.  So find a sport you can play all your life to keep yourself fit . . . like tennis, for instance.  Don't get me wrong:  don't quit dancing.  But only for the very few dancers does it last forever.  You need a physical fitness back-up.

But I didn't do that.  I didn't have a physical fitness back-up.  So I didn't enter adulthood with a lifelong recreational sport (like tennis).  I'd like to learn tennis even now, and I think that once The Boy is old enough to take lessons, I will do it too.  He and I can practice together.  And when he inevitably becomes better than me, he can start playing with his dad, who is the real tennis player in the family.

My weight has fluctuated up and down and up and up and up and down and down throughout most of my adult life.  I don't really want to talk about the emotional aspects of eating.  Just that I do eat in response to emotional upset:  If I get stressed or sad or anxious or even tired, the thing that comforts me is something salty and carby or something sugary and carby.  It goes straight to my thighs.

When I got married, I was about 10ish pounds heavier than my high school weight and I looked pretty darned good:

(Notice that you can't see my thighs in that outfit.)

Anyway, the way I got in better shape was pretty simple:  I took up the easiest sport I could think of.  Running.  And I did a lot of that, a lot of riding on the exercise bike we've got upstairs, and I followed, more or less regularly, the Weight Watchers program.  I did a little yoga too.  Wanting to look good for my husband was a great inspiration.  I mean, we began dating when I was a bit chubby, but I wanted him to have a fitter, healthier, more attractive me.  It took that inspiration and it took steely-eyed discipline to say "no" to chocolate cake and pizza.  It was hard.  (And sometimes, I didn't say, "no.")

Then came infertility and the drugs that I had to take (and the situational depression that went with the infertility).  Plus 15 pounds.  Then there was the pregnancy itself.  Plus 45 more pounds!

As a result of all of this up and down and up and down with my weight, I've got clothes in my closet ranging from size 6 to size 14 (and one aspirational size 4 that I've never really fit into).  Now, I'm still about 30 pounds above where I was when we got married.  I had sort of hoped that the weight would go away on its own with breastfeeding, but the magical weight-loss of breastfeeding eluded me.

Still, gosh-oh-golly, I'd like to be back to wedding weight by The Boy's first birthday.

So, back to the Weight Watchers plan I go . . . and bring on the running shoes . . . and the jog stroller!  Fingers crossed that I'll be back into my 6s (or at least the 8s) by March!  Wish me luck!

Monday, October 24, 2011


It took us a little over two years to get me pregnant.

I was 37 years old when we got married, and I was aware that there were risks associated with middle-aged pregnancy.  I knew about the elevated risks of Downs Syndrome and other genetic disorders.  I knew about the elevated risk of miscarriage.  I did not know much about declining fertility.  I mean, I was vaguely aware that as you got older your fertility declined, but I did not know that the curve turned sharply downward at 35, nor did I know about the giant cliff-like drop off at age 40.

See?  Actually, that looks more like a black diamond ski run from ages 40 to 50, but you get the idea.  (By the way, I got that chart, here:  http://www.rmapa.com/Infertility/Age-and-Female-Fertility.aspx)

Over the years, I've pondered why I didn't know about this.  Why did no doctor ever give me the hard truth that the older I got, the less likely it would be for me to get pregnant?  My conclusion is that doctors do not want to appear as if they are pressuring a single woman in her mid-thirties to have babies.  What would be the benefit in telling a woman with no husband or partner with whom to have a baby that she might want to hurry up and have one anyway, or it may be too late?  It hearkens back to another era when women told their daughters that they didn't want to wait too long to have babies because of "the change."  In our 21st Century feminism, maybe we're not able to acknowledge biological facts and not take offense, maybe.  Still, it would have been good to have this information.  It would have been good to be somewhat prepared.  Maybe it would not have come as such a shock to me when pregnancy did not come easily or quickly.

Anyway, after trying for about six months, I went to the OB/GYN for my routine check up and to be examined for possible infertility.  The OB/GYN ordered what would be the first of many diagnostic tests, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG).  In an HSG, a doctor expands a balloon in your uterus and then shoots radiological dye in there.  You are then X-rayed to see where the dye goes.  If the dye spills easily out of the ends of your Fallopian tubes into your pelvis, then your tubes are clear.  Good news for you:  you don't have to have surgery to try to clear a tubal blockage.  My radiological dye flowed quickly out the end of each tube like a crazy straw.

The OB/GYN also ordered a semen analysis on hubby.  And it turned out basically fine.  I am sure that he could probably tell you a lot more detail about that test, but my recollection is really the bottom line from the OB/GYN:  "I can't figure this out; you guys need a specialist."

As it turns out, we went to three different reproductive endocrinologists before one finally was able to conjure up an egg healthy enough to produce The Boy.  The first fertility doctor I saw, when I was just a couple of months past age 38, did something called the Clomid Challenge Test on me.  It's a fairly standard test used to determine the woman's egg reserve.  They pump you up with a ton of Clomid, draw some blood and then check the serum follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level.  If the FSH level is above a certain number, you are diagnosed with a diminished ovarian reserve, which means that you do not have a lot of eggs left in the basket with which to make your little chicken.

I was diagnosed with a diminished ovarian reserve.

And so, here was where the real infertility adventure began.  I would need drugs, lots and lots of powerful drugs, if I wanted to produce a baby.

I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly depressing it was.

The first fertility doctor did not furnish us with optimism.  He, in fact, refused to treat me in any way other than to do two to three rounds of drugs plus an intrauterine insemination (IUI).  He was emphatic that in vitro fertilization (IVF) on someone with diminished ovarian reserve was futile.  (He turned out to be right about that, sort of; I never had a successful IVF cycle.)

We sought a second opinion.  The second doctor was wonderful and kind.  He taught reproductive endocrinology at the local medical school.  And he was optimistic that something could be done, even with my elevated FSH.

We started with Clomid.  Clomid has been the go-to fertility drug for decades, but here's something interesting that doctor #2 told us:  Clomid was originally a birth control pill.  At high doses, Clomid "bums" eggs.  So dosage is important with Clomid:  less is more.  I did three cycles of Clomid with no result (other than hot flashes).  So we decided to move on to IVF.

But before that, in July of 2009, the second doctor wanted to do an exploratory surgery:  I had a hysteroscopy and a laparoscopy.  I was put under general anesthesia, my abdomen was pumped full of CO2 and the doctor entered my abdomen through my naval with a camera to view what it looked like in there.  He also viewed the inside of my uterus with a camera during this procedure.  Here's what he found:  the right ovary was smaller and slightly yellow, the left ovary looked normal, the inside of my uterus was "beautiful," and I had some very small external fibroid tumors on my uterus that should not be a problem.  Basically, he found nothing, other than the shriveled right ovary, that would prevent me from becoming pregnant.

I did three rounds of injectable medications to try to produce enough healthy eggs to get a baby.  The drugs I injected during this period were varying combinations of two drugs called Follistim (which is synthetic FSH) and Menopur, a combination of FSH and luteinizing hormone (LH) derived from old lady urine.  Seriously.  Post-menopausal women have incredibly high levels of FSH and LH.  During menopause, your pituitary gland starts ramping up your FSH and LH production in order to force your ovaries to dump your last remaining eggs.  The elevated FSH and LH are the reason for the hot flashes.  This is also why older moms are more likely to have multiples; their elevated FSH and LH levels cause them to ovulate more than one egg at a time.  And then the hormone levels just stay up there post-menopause.  I haven't been able to figure out exactly how they harvest the old lady urine, though, and I don't really want to think about it too hard.

Back to how the lady-system works to make babies:  FSH and LH work synergistically to encourage the ovary to release eggs.  In ovulation, the LH "surge" triggers ovulation.  It's all controlled by the pituitary gland if things work normally, or by syringes, if things do not.

At the end of each cycle, I would also take a trigger shot, Ovidrel, which would force ovulation within 12ish hours of the injection.  Ovidrel is a recombinant human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which replicates the LH surge telling the ovary to release the egg.

I should also mention that all of these medications came with a raft of side-effect warnings including blood clots, hot flashes, mood changes, weight gain, dizziness, etc.  Thankfully, my side effects were not all that serious -- some hot flashes, some moodiness, and some weight gain.  But I didn't really care much about the side effects and was mostly concerned with the immediate results.  Will this round make a baby?

My husband cared; he didn't want me to die in pursuit of a child. And he did not want me to get ovarian or breast cancer later in life because I was flooding my system with these hormones in my late-30s.  I worry about that too, now.  Will I get ovarian cancer in 10 or 15 years?  Will I get breast cancer?  They assured us that there was no known link between disease and these drugs, but doubt lingers.  And when I'm quiet, I do sometimes worry about The Boy having a sick mom someday.  Without the drugs, though, there would not be The Boy.  There is, accordingly, nothing to regret.

I never had a successful IVF cycle with the second doctor.  I never produced enough eggs.  We converted these failed IVF cycles to IUIs, but neither did those produce a baby.

With each failed round, I became increasingly depressed.  Seeing babies was hard.  Being around babies was hard.  I tried not to be jealous, but was.  I threw a lot of pity parties for myself.  My husband tried to keep me on the rails, but he was concerned as well.  He didn't like what it was doing to me.  Too, my depression -- and, to be honest, desperation -- was affecting him.  And let's not forget that he also wanted a baby.  It wasn't just me in all of this.

We started to consider donor eggs.  In egg donation, young women do exactly what I was doing -- shoot themselves up with FSH, LH and hCG -- and then undergo light anesthesia for egg retrieval, which involves a long needle inserted through the vaginal wall to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries.  An egg donation could produce from five to 35 eggs, with the average number being in the teens. The young woman's eggs are fertilized with the husband's sperm and the resulting embryo is implanted into the wife, who becomes pregnant and gives birth to her non-genetic child.

Egg donors get paid a lot -- usually $5,000 to $10,000 -- but, in my opinion, it's not enough.  They undergo quite a lot physically and even risk suffering side effects from the medications, and even possible infection resulting from the harvesting of the eggs and/or risks to their own future fertility.  They should be compensated for that risk.

Some egg donors get paid very well.  "Harvard" eggs can go for $50,000 or more.  Eggs of certain ethnicities command premiums.  It becomes unseemly, this purchase of genetic material.  Still, we had gone onto a registry and looked at potential donors and had chosen a few of them who seemed like they could be me-only-better.  Looking back, it seems difficult for even me to believe that I considered this option.  I wonder, now, if I would have followed through with it.  Possibly, I was looking into it because I needed to feel like there was one more option out there for me . . . that we hadn't tried everything yet.

Even though I liked the second doctor, I had become frustrated with him.  It had been more than a year and we had seen no result.  Not even a miscarriage.  And he would not consider egg donation on ethical grounds.  Given all that surrounds egg donation, this is not an unreasonable stance.  My husband was also not yet sure that egg donation was what we needed to do.  But after so much failure, and with my 40th birthday looming a few months away, I wanted results.  I wanted to change.  I wanted a baby.

We went to a third doctor who was in a practice that does work with egg donors and recipients.  Our last reproductive endocrinologist has a bachelor's degree from MIT and a Harvard medical degree.  If she could not figure this thing out, what brain could?  At our initial consultation, she and my husband hit it off pretty well.  (Ivy Leaguers.)  I liked her too.  She was slim, Korean, pretty, personable, intelligent, about my age.  From the photographs in her office, you could see that she had two small children.  Her husband is also a doctor.

She was surprised that all of the injectable medication protocols I had been on had been so-called "short protocols."  She emphatically told me that, at age 39, it was not time to think about donor eggs yet.  If I were a few years older, yes, but not now.  She encouraged me to try with my own eggs again.  And, importantly, she would not let me wallow in self-pity about my situation.  I had thought I needed sympathy. What I actually needed was a firm hand from an intelligent, confident doctor.  She really did turn my attitude around.  I agreed to try.

She decided to go "old school" on me and use a long protocol:  six weeks.  This time, I started with Lupron injections, which suppressed my ovaries for about 3 weeks, then I started with Follistim and Menopur injections.  During this cycle (and it was the case with every attempted IVF cycle), I was closely monitored by blood draws and sonograms.

With this cycle, the sonogram showed that I produced five follicles on my ovaries, but only one had matured to a size sufficient to house an egg.  And whether that egg would be healthy was anybody's guess.  She recommended that we convert this cycle to an IUI because there were not enough eggs to harvest for IVF.  When asked, she hazarded about a 14% chance of success given these circumstances.  We've been down this road before, I thought.  Still, I did the Ovidrel shot when instructed to do it, and on a Friday in late June of 2010, we did the IUI.  And then we waited.

A week later, I went back to have my blood drawn in order to check my progesterone level.  It was pretty high.  That was promising, apparently, but I wasn't holding my breath.  Another week later, I went back for a serum pregnancy test.  The phlebotomist asked me if I'd taken a home pregnancy test.  I said, "No, I don't do those.  They depress me." She chuckled.  She'd heard that before.  She drew my blood and I went to work.

Later that day, I got a telephone called.  July 2, 2010:  I was pregnant, about five weeks.  We were stunned, in utter disbelief.  A week later, we had a sonogram, and there was The Bean who would be The Boy one day.  Another week later, another sonogram:  and the strong, tiny heartbeat.  We could see it flutter.  We could hear it.

She released us to the OB/GYN.  No longer an infertility patient, now, I was just a pregnant lady, with a due date of March 11, 2011. On September 17, 2010, bang on at 15 weeks of pregnancy, I had amniocentesis.  Ten incredibly long days later, on September 27, 2010, we found out that The Bean would be The Boy, and that he was healthy.  We went public at that moment.  Not long after that, I felt him move for the first time.

And then lots of stuff happened during the pregnancy that was mostly normal (except for the bedrest for the month of February 2011).  But it all came to fruition on March 5, 2011, when after about 20 hours of contractions and labor, we finally got to meet that little stranger, our little boy. The two years of depressing, painful, frustrating infertility treatments forever receded into the background.  And at center stage lay this happy little creature, The Boy, who was totally, absolutely worth it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One Bad Thing About Being a Lawyer

I'm a trial attorney.

It's not as glamorous as it sounds.

If it sounds glamorous at all.

I'm a trial attorney for the United States and I go to court, on average, about once a week.  Not all of those hearings are full-blown trials as depicted on your average 50 minute television drama.  Not most of them are.

Mostly, they are pretty simple hearings in which I announce the United States' position on something, or, in fact, I announce that we are actively not taking a position on something or that "I have reviewed the proposed order, your honor, and it is satisfactory."

But sometimes, I do go to trial, with opening and closing arguments, exhibits and witnesses and all that stuff.  (But no jury:  the court I practice in typically does not conduct jury trials.)  I've had three of those sorts of court days over the past three weeks.  Preparing for trial is hard:  planning your questions for the witnesses, studying your exhibits so that you know what you want to highlight to the court, re-reading cases you've read a hundred times before so that you are sure that they say what you think that they say, drafting argument outlines . . . .  Trial is inefficient, time-consuming work.  And stressful.

But the time I hate the most, in all of the time leading up to trial, is that period after I arrive at the courthouse, but before the proceeding begins.  It is typically not enough time to do any last-minute review, but just long enough to allow anxiety to build in your idleness.  And, even though the guy on the other side is someone you've known all of your career, and may even be your friend, you still don't feel much like talking to him (or her) at that moment.  All that tension dissipates the minute the judge says, "You may proceed," because you finally get to do your job.  And importantly, the thing you have prepared days or weeks for has started and so, soon enough, will come to an end.

But in those few minutes after I've arrived at the courthouse but before the action begins, my skin tingles most uncomfortably.  It's but one bad thing about being a lawyer.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Up All Night

Up All Night.

It's a new sit-com on NBC.  It's about a husband and a wife - a working mom - who have a baby in early-middle-age.  When we saw the previews for this show, the hubby and I thought that we had to watch it.  We were primed to watch it; it seemed tailor made for us.  So we programmed the DVR.

I should explain that we really do not watch serialized television shows.  We watch Pawn Stars.  We watch This Old House and America's Test Kitchen.  We watch Top Chef.  We watch the news.  But shows that pretend towards offering characters and plots, we don't watch those.

Alas, the show is, so far, pretty disappointing.

Up All Night is not about what it is like for working professionals to have a baby.  This show is about what it's like for middle-aged adolescents to have a baby.  Let me explain.

We naturally thought the show's title referred to being up all night with the baby. And I supposed, it does that, but the pilot episode of the show reveals that "up all night" also refers to these characters' party past.  The episode features a scene in which the mom and dad call a babysitter at the last minute and then go out on the town for a night-long bacchanalia.  The next you see of them, they are hung over and the child is crying for a diaper change.  How did they get a babysitter at the last minute?  And what babysitter, other than perhaps a relative, is willing to stay the night while mom and dad sing Karaoke and do Jager shots 'til the wee hours?  And when the two inebriates arrived home, did the babysitter just leave them there to drunkenly care for the baby?

Here's the irony:  We watched this episode at four in the morning after our son woke us up crying with an ear infection.  We sat in the twilight of the flickering television, mouths slightly agape in disgusted disbelief.  There was no evidence in this episode that these people have ever been awakened at night by their child.  Indeed, the child seemed to be little more than a plot device there to inconvenience these two incredibly cool people and a prop around which endearing moments could occur at the close of the show.

The pilot episode also features a stay-at-home dad playing video games and talking on the phone with his other stay-at-home-dad friend.  Do any of the writers have children?  This man does not have time to play and chat on the phone.  Here's what TV-dad's real day would be like:  baby cries, feed baby, change baby, baby still cries, rock baby, put baby in swing, feed baby again, change baby, baby finally falls asleep, dad sits down with a cup of coffee, baby starts crying again.  Repeat.

And it's not as if Hollywood doesn't know how to make a program about a baby.  The movie Three Men and a Baby is really about the baby:  Peeing all over the bed.  Endless puking.  Ceaseless, inconsolable crying.  Confusion over formula, bottles, nipples, and types of diapers.  Holding down a job while caring for an infant.  Reading to the baby.  Cuddling the baby.  Playing with the baby.  Singing the baby to sleep.  I'm not asking that Up All Night be the twenty-first century Three Men and a Baby for TV.  I just pose that a show whose premise is the trials and travails of new parenthood should probably feature the baby in more than background shots.

Hubby swore off Up All Night after the first viewing.  I decided to watch the another episode.  This episode began with a whoops-we-forgot-the-baby scene in which mom and dad pack their too-small car with all their beach gear and forget to leave room for the baby.  Whoopsie!  The episode's theme was how uncool it is to have to buy a family car and how Ma and Pa Coolness don't want to be like their nerdy neighbors walking around with the Baby Bjorn.  But they will do it, they will self-consciously sacrifice their cool, for the sake of the child.  (Except they didn't!  Because they got a custom paint job on the SUV!  So they're still cooler than the Weirdlys down the street!)

Without even addressing how the lavish lifestyle lived by these characters does not even come close to approximating your average American's (even your average upper-middle class American's) experience, this show is unrealistic.  It shows you the sort of parent that does not exist.  Parents do not self-consciously relinquish their coolness for the sake of the kids.  Any pretension to hipness melts away with your child's first breath.  That's normal.  That's what's real.  You do not even give your cool rep a second thought and you never miss it.  There's comedy there too, but maybe it's more subtle, more difficult to achieve.

I must confess, that the third episode we watched -- yes, we watched a third episode -- seemed to hold a glimmer of promise.  The latest episode's storyline addressed the angst of a working mom who feels the very real tug of work versus family.  She finds her boss irritated with her commitment to her family and she questions whether her work is having a negative impact on her child.  There's even a little hint of the passive aggressivity that is the hallmark of the Mommy Wars.  But, it's all neatly resolved at the end with the violent destruction of a stroller and a Bangles song.  (Still so cool.)  I'm still not impressed, but, I guess, for the sake of my latent desire to see my circumstances depicted on the television, I will keep watching for now.  If nothing else, it'll be something to watch the next time I'm up all night with The Boy.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Boy and The Dude

One of the consequences of becoming parents for the first time in our early 40s is that my husband and I have very few friends with kids who could be our son's immediate peers.  Most of our friends' kids are older, in some cases already in college.  So we do not have a lot of ready-made friends for our boy.

This is an added benefit of daycare:  The Boy has the opportunity to make friends.

I know what "they" say:  that kids The Boy's age don't really play with other kids, they play near other kids.  Parallel play, they call it.  So I had always assumed that parallel play meant that babies don't really make friends.

Enter:  The Dude.

The Dude is just 10 days younger than The Boy.  In fact, he and The Boy look so similar that on The Dude's first day at School, The Boy's dad momentarily mistook The Dude for The Boy (until he saw their faces).

They've developed at different rates.  The Boy is quite analytical and has a pretty long attention span for a baby.  The Dude seems pretty social.  (At least, he always smiles at me!)  The Boy sits well, if you set him on his bottom, but he hasn't actually ever gotten into a seated position by himself yet.  The Boy also army crawls.  The Dude has already figured out how to sit up by himself and, this week, The Dude started crawling.  (I was so excited for him!  Go, little Dude!)  The Dude is also a tad bit bigger than The Boy.  But, generally, The Boy and The Dude are as close to each other developmentally as they can be.

The Dude is The Boy's best friend.

I know, I know . . .  how can I know this for sure?  And is that even possible?

Well, here's what I know:  When we bring The Boy to School, The Dude lights up.  The ladies who care for their class say that these two always want to play together.  The other day, I dropped The Boy off at School and The Dude squealed with delight, smiled, and banged his hand on the play mat until I put The Boy down next to him.  I have come to pick The Boy up from School to find him and The Dude awake in their cribs "talking" to each other.  And there was one day when I arrived, sat The Boy in front of The Dude on a play mat, and the two of them sat facing each other, laughing, clearly thrilled to be in each other's presence.  It was so darned cute.

Who says babies don't have friends?  My baby does.  And his friend is one cool little Dude.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

We Turned Out Fine!

There's a phenomenon of modern parenting that has been dubbed "helicopter parenting."  The idea is that we modern parents are too over-protective.  The term "helicopter parenting" is meant to evoke the image of a skittish, over-involved, wide-eyed, hand-wringing ninny.  You're supposed to hear that phrase and say to yourself, "Oh, I'd never be like that.  My child will roam the world free from my paranoid watchfulness.  I will not buy into the culture of ultrasafety that  inhibits my child's personal growth."

And there's another phrase that goes with "helicopter parenting":

They didn't do all of this stuff when we were kids, and we turned out fine!

Yeah, except for the those of us who didn't turn out fine, or died.

But nevermind the drama of that retort.  The fact is that our world is different today.  Sure, I was allowed to ride my bicycle all over my neighborhood, but everyone in the neighborhood knew my parents, and knew me, and kept an eye on all the kids.  That was the deal in the 1970s.  But our society is more transient.  My husband is the longest resident on our street and he's been here only 10 years.  Our society is more atomized.  We do not live where we work and so we do not engage in our communities the way people used to do.

I barely know my neighbors.  There's the Indian family down the street, whose son we refer to as Kevin Ganpoor after the character in Mean Girls ("I'm a mathlete, so nerd is inferred").  There's the Cheerleader Mom.  There's the guy who never says "hi," whom we see only smoking and walking his Westie (such an adorable dog with such a prune of a man).  The man and woman across the street we know a little bit, but they're older with grandkids.  And our next door neighbor is a nice single guy who refers to what is obviously his girlfriend (from the amount of time her car stays parked in front of his house) as his "friend."

We don't really have real friends in our neighborhood, and I don't think we are unusual in that regard. So pardon us if we're a little less likely to send our kid out alone into this sea of virtual strangers once he's bicycle-age.

Of course, maybe by the time he's on a bicycle, we'll know these folks better.  Maybe raising a child hooks you into the community in a way that simply living in it does not.  But at the rate people move into and out of the neighborhood, I am skeptical that I'll ever be more than "hi neighbors" with them.

Still, it's not just the personal mobility of children that's changed since I was a child.  After The Boy was born, we were terrified by the folks at the hospital to such a degree that we feared that any tiny misstep would kill him.  The nurse who wheeled me out to the car on the day we were released to go home, gravely instructed me, "You sit in the back seat with the baby."  I hadn't had any other thought but to do that, but her tone conveyed that even a short car trip without an adult in the backseat was a tragedy-in-waiting.  It was six weeks before either of us took The Boy anywhere on our own because there would be no one to sit in the back seat with him.  And, even now, when we all go out, I still sit in the back seat with him, even if it's only a ten minute drive.

And maybe that's a good thing. Start the parents off with an attitude of maximum caution and allow them to learn and gain confidence. At seven months, I no longer live in constant terror that I may damage The Boy permanently. I'm still cautious, of course (he's my BOY), but I am confident enough to break the rules now and again . . . .   Sometimes, he gets to sleep with his Paddington lovey even though we are cautioned not to put stuffed toys into his bed because they are a suffocation hazard.  If it's the only thing that will calm him down, he gets Paddington.

Personally, I am thankful for the carseats and the pads for sharp table corners, the BPA free plastic, the toys with no small parts, the cabinet and toilet locks, the swaddle blankets and sleep sacks.  I am even thankful for the warnings that scared us to death in the first few weeks.  I'm happy that my baby's world is safer than the world was for me.  I am glad that the world cares, on some level, whether he lives or dies.  It's called progress.  All the products and the warnings won't save him from every potential harm.  His dad and I know that we still must be watchful.  But it sure helps.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stay at Home Mom Fridays

My work schedule allows me to have every other Friday off.  I call those Fridays my Stay-at-Home-Mom Fridays, SAHM Fridays.  In theory, I would hang out with my boy and play and do fun things.  But in reality, it has recently been what I think most SAHM's every-days are about:  running errands, doing laundry, straightening the house and, in between, tending to The Boy, who is usually a sweet joy, but sometimes is a challenge.

OK, I admit it.  Sometimes I take The Boy to School on SAHM Fridays.

Bad, evil, selfish Working Mom.

But it's not like that at all!

It's just easier and faster to run all those errands and do all those chores if I'm not running to sooth him or make sure he's not hitting his head on the coffee table.  Then when it's all done, I pick him up and the day can be all about him.

But the thing is, when I take him to School, I miss him.  I want to hang out with him.  My mind is always there, with him.  The truth is that I miss him all the time that I am away from him, every day at work.  But when I'm at work, the distraction of the activity of a busy office dulls the ache of missing him.  When I'm doing the grocery shopping and he's down the street at School, all I can think about is him being just down the street at School.  And I wonder about what he might be doing . . . and how I'd rather he be with me . . . and how he's probably having a lot of fun without me playing with his little friends . . . and how the idea of him having fun makes me feel happy . . . and, weirdly, quite lonely.  (I have a suspicion that this is a hint of my life to come.)

Still, I have visions of SAHM Fridays of the future that involve splash parks, zoos, playgrounds, museums, play dates, music classes, ball pits, trampolines and other fun things for kids.  I look forward to SAHM Fridays that are not days in which I get a head start on the laundry or caught up on the family filing.  I look forward to fun SAHM Fridays full of adventures and devoted to the enrichment of my little guy's beautiful mind.  Right now, at age seven months, those sorts of adventures are pretty limited in scope, but nevertheless fulfilling.  (Recently, he touched grass for the first time, which was more fun than you might think.  Think of what he'll make of a pick-your-own berry farm or a petting zoo!)

We're going to have a great time on our Fridays!

But right now, today, on this SAHM Friday, I've got a load of dirty diapers to get into the washer and some dishes to do.  Ta ta!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Love Rat

You would think that what with being a full time trial lawyer and a full time mommy, that I wouldn't have a lot of free time to do stuff.  And you would be right!

Still, one wants a hobby.  One wants a little fun thing to play around with.  In truth, I have a few of those. Occasionally, I will play the piano.  (But my hubby is the real pianist.)  I also like to birdwatch, cook . . . and then there's the cloth diapering (but that's for another show).  Recently, I took up sewing.  I'm not great, but it's fun.  Rather than wax philosophical about the art and craft of sewing, I'll just show you what I did this afternoon . . . .

Ah, well loved, well worn pajama bottoms.  Alas, the waist and drawstring are so worn that they have lost their usefulness qua pajamas.  What to do?  What to do?

"Hey!" thought I, "I can cut them up and make a little bear!"

First, I pinned the front pattern piece to the leg through both layers of fabric, and then cut through both layers at the same time to make two mirror image pieces.  Then, I did the same with the back pattern piece.  
All done cutting, I had two front pieces and two back pieces, which I then sewed together to make the front and the back of the bear.

Next, I sewed the front to the back.  (Sewing around curves is hard!  At least for me . . . .)

Last thing to do:  fill him with fiber fill and sew him up!


Hmmmm.  Doesn't look much like a bear.  More like a rat . . . .
A love rat . . . .

The Boy still like him, though, bear or love rat.

And that means that this mom had a successful Saturday afternoon.