To Be or Not to Be…A Parent

toy_mess_2When Ad Man and I had been married for a few years, I went through a period of being conflicted over whether I wanted kids or not.  I once said to him, “What if I decide I don’t want to have kids?” to which he lovingly replied, “I would leave you.”  (I have witnesses.) Clearly, Ad Man suffered no such ambiguity.  I think it’s notable to consider who ended up stepping away from HER career once we did procreate.  (Can I get an, “Amen, sister”?)

During this time, I searched for a book that would help me weigh the pros and cons of having children, but I came up empty handed.  The opinions of my friends with children weren’t helpful because, much like a foreign terrorist group, part of a parent’s job is to recruit others to the cause.  As I am nothing but helpful and don’t take orders well, I have decided to break with protocol and give you a real, constructive way of determining whether parenthood is right for you.  You and your partner should sit down and ask yourselves the following questions.

1.  Trying to decide whether to get pregnant?  Are you comfortable discussing the following with strangers?

  • The exact scheduling of your sex life
  • The quantity and quality of your husband’s/donor’s sperm
  • The evils of formula feeding
  • The evils of breastfeeding
  • The evils of starting a child on solid food before the age of 6
  • Whether or not you will circumcise a potential child who may or may not have a penis
  • Mucus plugs
  • The diameter of your cervix

2.  Are you willing to contend with the following?

  • Rock hard porn boobs (I’m guessing your partner will give that one a thumb’s up)
  • Cracked nipples
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Heartburn that makes Flaming Hot Cheetos seem mild
  • Leaking milk in public
  • Catching vomit with your bare hands
  • Having poop in the crevices of your wedding rings

3.  See your young, beautiful body?  Imagine you look exactly the same but for the following small changes:

  • Add dark circles under your eyes
  • Add wild eyebrows, hairy armpits and an unruly bush
  • Delete manicure and pedicure
  • Take your perky B cups and replace them with one of the following: 1) droopy A cups that look like deflated balloons, or 2) enormous D cups that require major structural underpinnings and make all your tops fit like that half-shirt you wore in 10th grade
  • Add stretch marks (this one’s optional, but you don’t get to choose)
  • Add one muffin top

4.  Imagine not being able to do any of the following again for a long, long time…

  • Have sex
  • Poop in private
  • Sleep 5 or more hours in a row
  • Eat a hot meal
  • Be on time for anything, ever
  • Have an uninterrupted conversation
  • Put your makeup on anywhere but in a moving vehicle

5.  To visualize your home, which you’ve so stylishly decorated, with a child living in it, make the following alterations:

  • Add approximately 5,000 garishly colored plastic objects
  • Add a film of filth to every wall measuring from the ground up to approximately 3 feet high
  • See that handy guest room?  Remove guests and add a bunk bed
  • Throw all your clothes on the floor
  • Gather all the objects that are irreplaceable and smash half of them
  • Replace that Diptyque candle with the scent of a teen boy’s feet after marinating in sweaty sneakers all day

6.  Listen to a 72 hour recording on a constant loop that says…

“Mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, mommy, mommy, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mom, moooooooommyyyy!!!  Now, how do you feel?

7.  A few more considerations that become more important as your hypothetical kid gets older…are you willing to:

  • Have your intelligence insulted on every subject?
  • Be the cause of constant embarrassment?
  • Be viewed as nothing more than a chauffeur, chef, ATM?
  • Receive late night calls from the police?
  • Listen to the same Taylor Swift CD over and over and over again?
  • Age 20 years in the next 5?

If all of the foregoing sounds like a fun adventure to you and your partner…congratulations! You are now ready for some super hot, rigorously scheduled sex. If not, then run!  Run for your life!  That is until your hormones take you hostage and send a ransom note demanding a soft, pink, sweet-smelling, little ball of love who will steal your heart and trash everything else in its wake.

Holidays in Hell

Pumpkin HouseI know it sounds crazy, but we’re still in the midst of Halloween planning and decorating around here.  I just finished sewing a tiny, waterproof Marie Antoinette costume for Jacques, our beta fish, and now I have to hand-bead the gown for Smalls’s Donatella Versace costume and carve Biggie’s pumpkin into an intricate Victorian lace pattern.  After that, I will set out luminaria to light the path down our sidewalk, up the driveway, down both sides of the street and around the block.  In an effort to be culturally inclusive, I’ve also cast 100 Dia de los Muertos sugar skulls that still need to be decorated with frosting. I’d have the kids help me, but I just can never count on them to be historically accurate in their decorating.

I’m so thankful I thought ahead last week and already made the beds with our candy corn and skull-and-crossbones patterned sheets and changed out the Columbus Day throw pillows for the Halloween ones.  It’s also a relief to know that the dough for the bone-shaped bread sticks is pre-made and in the freezer with the butternut squash and squid ink pasta lasagna.  I’ll just have to pop the dry ice into our drinks at the last minute and our Halloween dinner will be on the table in plenty of time to get a balanced meal into my family before trick-or-treating begins.

I’m hoping I’ll be done packaging the handmade candy bars in butcher paper and orange and white striped twine so I can join the rest of the family for the evening’s festivities.  I’d really hate to miss it, especially since I’ve been walking around in this green makeup and fake nose with warts all day!  Ha, ha!  Oh, and I can’t forget to change out all the lightbulbs with orange ones before we leave the house.

I sent Ad Man out to replicate the cemetery from ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ in the front yard, but I’m afraid he may need help from the neighbors since I had the headstones and statues hand-carved from stone.  I’m also waiting for the guys with the cherry-picker to arrive so I can finish hanging the faux Spanish moss from the top of the maple tree out front.

Whew!  I’m getting exhausted just thinking about it and this is only the beginning of the holiday season!  I don’t even want to think about all the Indian headdresses and pilgrim hats I have to sew, the organic cranberries I have to harvest from the bog in the backyard, the creche I have to carve from that olive wood I ordered from the Holy Land and the tiny dreidels I have to sculpt, glaze, fire in the kiln and deliver to our Jewish friends.  And, Hanukkah starts early this year!

You know, every year I swear I’m going to scale back, do more with less, volunteer for fewer class parties and just say no to the holiday whirlwind.  But, I just want things to be perfect for my family.  I know the kids will look back fondly at the moments we shared gold-leafing the walls in preparation for New Year’s Eve and they’ll never forget the magic of seeing actual, authentic reindeer shit on the roof on Christmas morning.  I’m not going to lie, it is a lot of work but, it’s worth every late night spent in the kitchen or the wood shop or sitting at the loom.  After all, as they say, a neurotic, overachieving, competitive, control-freak-of-a-mother’s work is never done!

Photo via Apartment Therapy

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It Takes a Village

ivf_embryo_lavThere were seven people in the room when I conceived my eldest daughter, the most crucial of whom was not my husband.  In fact, Ad Man didn’t really need to be there at all. I’d argue that the most important person in the room was the embryologist who delivered a syringe fitted with a long plastic tube containing four of the cutest little soap bubbles you’ve ever seen.  As IVF doctors tend to have a bit of a God complex, I’m sure my handsome, famous, Beverly Hills fertility doctor would have claimed the title for himself. And, actually, our bank account would provide evidence that he was correct.

In addition to Dr. S and the embryologist, there were two nurses and two additional doctors who were there to learn how to make babies the hard way.  Ad Man was by my side holding my hand, but he could easily have been out eating a slice of pizza, having done his important job days before.  Since then, our potential brood had been plumping up cell by cell and being poked and prodded by a team of doctors who declared them free of genetic diseases and ready for implantation.

Before the crowd gathered around my vagina like mechanics diagnosing an engine problem, Ad Man and I met with Dr. S to discuss the soap bubbles.  The romantic petri dish dance between my eggs (not so gently plucked from my ovaries with a giant needle days before) and Ad Man’s sperm had resulted in two Grade A Large embryos and two others that were puny and a little scraggly around the edges.  We decided to implant all four embryos in hopes that one or two of them would stick.

This was not our first time at the rodeo, however.  We were in our third year of trying to get me properly knocked up.  By this point, I’d already endured countless tests, hundreds of shots, and two previous rounds of in vitro.  After the first round, we were told that my pregnancy test was positive, but my hormone levels were low, so there was a good chance the pregnancy wouldn’t be successful.  It wasn’t.

After the second round of IVF, I knew almost immediately that I was pregnant when my boobs began growing at an alarming rate.  Two weeks later, Dr. S gave us the joyous news…I was indeed pregnant and my enormous breasts were evidence of my raging hormone levels.  Turns out, my raging hormone levels were evidence that I was growing a set of twins in there.  We were ecstatic!  Two babies for the price of one!  We were done with this IVF shit forever!

Unfortunately, our joy was short-lived.  A few weeks into my pregnancy, after we’d already seen the two little heartbeats, we went back to the doctor’s office for another routine ultrasound and discovered that the fluttering heartbeats had stopped. An even more detailed ultrasound confirmed that I’d lost the pregnancy.  The weeks and months after my miscarriage are now a blur.  I went into a deep depression and Ad Man did his best to support me while simultaneously mourning his own loss.

I do remember, though, that it was the love and support of our friends and family (along with antidepressants and the world’s best therapist) that got us through that profound heartbreak.  Ad Man and I had been very open about our struggle with infertility, which we later found out, is a fairly rare thing.  Infertility is often still seen as embarrassing or, at least, deeply private.  In fact, it was only when we opened up to others that a number of our friends shared that they too had experienced, or were struggling with, infertility. Luckily, Ad Man and I are both blabbermouths with no boundaries so we had a team of people cheering us on, including both of our bosses.

One day, Ad Man (who can be a real softie) went into his boss’s office crying after a failed round of IVF.  In a perfect, only-in-L.A. moment, his boss J gave him a big hug and said, “That fucking sucks!  You know what you need?  Xanax.  You want some?”  I’m telling you, you can’t buy that kind of support!

Honestly, it was a relief to be open with our friends because we could rely on them for support and we could laugh with them at the ridiculousness of the whole process. When you’re dealing with infertility, it’s best to just check your humility at the door on the very first day.  By the end of our last round of IVF, Ad Man could give me a shot in the ass just about anywhere and I could have had a vaginal ultrasound in the doctor’s waiting room without blinking an eye.

And, Ad Man was such a trouper.  Subjects that would have made most men hide in a corner, like uterine polyps, low sperm count and masturbating into a cup, just became fodder for amusing dinner party conversation.  (Now, don’t you wish you could party with us?!)  Going into our second round of IVF, Ad Man was happy to discover that, because we lived so close to our fertility clinic, he could make his, ahem, deposit at home and bring it into the clinic rather than having to do the deed on-site.  When he was making the special delivery, he got into the elevator with another guy who looked sheepish, carrying his own bag-o-sperm into the office.  Ad Man took one look at the guy and said, “You brown-baggin’ it too?”  I don’t know if the poor man in the elevator was amused by the question, but it sure has made us and our friends laugh over the years!

Mommy and baby BiggieThose seven people who witnessed Biggie’s conception must have been good luck because it resulted in a blissfully uneventful, successful pregnancy with one healthy baby girl!  Ad Man and I never regretted being so open about our journey even when things went wrong and we had to make some very difficult phone calls.  We found out that it sometimes takes a village to make a baby.  I’m glad we learned that lesson early on because, as others have said time and again, it sure as hell takes a village to raise a child.  I’m just glad that my little band of villagers has always been there to laugh and cry with me (occasionally at the same time), offer me shelter when I’ve locked myself out of the house, take the kids for an afternoon when I’m barely holding on by my fingernails, and to know, without me having to say a word, when an emergency cocktail is in order. What more could a girl want?

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Not Just a Mom. Not Just a Writer.

tanya_ward_goodmanMy friend Tanya Ward Goodman recently published an article on TheNextFamily.com about her transition from stay-at-home mom and sometimes writer to published author of her first book Leaving Tinkertown.  Her thoughts on career and family were just so on-point with my journey from “stay-at-home momhood” to…whatever’s next, that I wanted to share it here.  I’m sure her words will ring true for many of you as well.

‘Not Just a Mom. Not Just a Writer.’ by Tanya Ward Goodman
http://thenextfamily.com/2013/10/not-just-a-mom-not-just-a-writer/

Please also check out Tanya’s beautifully written book.  In Leaving Tinkertown, Tanya tells the story of her unconventional childhood growing up in a New Mexico roadside museum with her eccentric, creative and loving father and her experience returning home to help care for her father after his diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Leaving Tinkertown Trailer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM9GJHe-19I

Crazy Stuff I’ve Had to Tell My Kids

underpants_head_v.2I am constantly amazed that any child ever manages to live to adulthood.  Seriously, it’s like every single one of them has a death wish.  As soon as I found out I was pregnant the first time, I went about baby-proofing every room in our apartment despite the fact that I wouldn’t give birth for another 8 months and the child wouldn’t be even remotely mobile for some time after that.  As most parents do, I had visions of my kid sticking a knife in an electrical socket, falling down the stairs, cracking open her head on the edge of a glass table, chugging a bottle of Draino and diving into the toilet head first.  I knew a helpless baby or curious toddler could get in no end of trouble and believed I could protect my kid from all foreseeable dangers.

What I didn’t realize, however, is that my children would get themselves into precarious situations I could never in a million years have predicted.  Because, you see, children are stupid.  They do and say stupid shit ALL THE TIME.  And, it starts at a much younger age than you’d expect.  Not all of it has the potential to land them a spot as Darwin Award nominees, but it’s generally all either ridiculous, annoying, messy, embarrassing or all of the above.

Because of our children’s bouts of utter stupidity, we all find ourselves telling them things we would never have had to say prior to having kids.  There are just some things you shouldn’t have to say to another human being!  I have numerous examples from my own experience and have gathered many others from friends with children. I’m hoping to make this a recurring post, so in the spirit of laughing together so we don’t cry, please share your stories in the comments!  Enjoy…

“Take the turtle out of your underwear!”

“Don’t headbutt your sister.”

“You need to keep your eyes open when you’re riding a bike!”

“You do NOT wash your hands in the chocolate syrup!”

“You can’t do yoga with pizza in your mouth.”

“Don’t lick the television.”

“Get your sucker off the cat!”

“No pole vaulting in the living room.”

“No, the ducky doesn’t belong in your underwear.”

“Don’t put mud down your pants.”

“No those are not bite marks around my nipples where you used to feed. They just look like that.”

“Don’t point the arrow at your sister.”

“You have to wear underwear with dress pants.”

“No, that’s NOT what the hand-held shower head is for.”

“You can’t feed the dog Play-doh!”

“No, you can’t touch my boobies.”

“I’m removing all mirrors in the house so you can’t watch yourself cry during fits of rage.”

“Stop smiling meanly at your brother.”

“Your penis is not a drum.”

“No, mommy doesn’t have a ‘front butt.’ It’s called a vagina.”

“Is that your booger on the wall?”

“I don’t think you should practice the recorder in the shower.”

“Your arm will always be longer than your neck, so no, you won’t ever be able to lick your elbow.”

“Stop riding your brother like a pony!”

“I’m going to throw away any ammo or weapons I find that are not put away in the weapons closet.”

“Sweetie, girls can’t pee on trees like little boys. I am so sorry. No, don’t try!”

“Stop rubbing the hamburger on your face!  A bear is going to eat you.”

“You know I don’t like you licking my clothes.”

And, my personal favorite…“I don’t like the vengeful way you’re eating that cheese.”

One additional note, on occasion your significant other can be no smarter than his or her progeny causing you to have to ask things like…“Are you aware that your daughter is dipping her binky in your vodka?”

I would love to hear the crazy shit you’ve had to say to your children or significant other!

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Can’t You Get These Things To Stand Up?

I recently read an article on the Huffington Post by Emma Gray titled, “23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.”  Luckily, it was written by a woman because if a man tried to pull that off, the entire female readership of Huff Post would be hunting his ass down.  But no, this was written by one of our own, so I think we owe it to ourselves to hear her out.  A quick perusal of the article indicates that I’m doing many things wrong.  For example, I have flagrantly and repeatedly done all of the following: apologized too much, obsessively untagged every unflattering photo of me that ever existed online, felt like an imposter when I’ve accomplished something in my professional life (it took me years to be able to refer to myself as a lawyer without smirking), held on to toxic friendships (of course I’m not talking about you) and complained about my body as part of my constant mental monologue and, out loud, to others.

This last infraction is a big one, especially for those of us who are the parents of girls.  Much has been made recently about how a mother’s body image affects that of her children.  I know I need to be better about not putting myself down in front of my kids and I’ve been making an effort to do so.  However, Biggie and Smalls don’t read this blog (mainly because Mommy has a potty mouth) so I’m reserving the right to break the “rules” just this one time.

mom_tattooMany parents choose to celebrate their children by getting a tattoo in their honor.  Now, it’s no secret that I have a few tattoos.  So, occasionally, someone will ask me if I have a tattoo for my kids to which I invariably reply, “Hell, no!”  Those two darling girls have already branded my body in so many different ways, I feel no need to give up any more real estate to them.  And, luckily for you, dear reader, one of the things I do best (remind me to add this to my resume) is over-share.  My natural inclination, when I’ve done something wildly embarrassing is to, first, swear I will never tell another living soul about it and then, second, immediately post it to Facebook.  I just cannot hoard a good story, even at the risk of my own pride.

As most of you know, after having a child, no matter whether that child was conceived and carried by you or not, your body will never again be your own.  At the very least, it will be subject to the opinions of, and a running commentary by, a tiny person who should just mind his or her own damn business.  Which reminds me of a great story.  My friend A, was once taking a shower with her daughter who was about 4 years-old at the time.  Her daughter looked up, put a hand under each of my friend’s breasts and tapping them lightly as if she were trying to gently put them back into place said, “Can’t you get these things to stand up?”

So, in commemoration of my vow to stop publicly criticizing my body (trying to control my thoughts is a losing proposition), and in the spirit of Shit My Kids Ruined, here is an inventory of my body parts noting any damage caused wholly or in part by childbirth and motherhood.  My feet are bigger and my legs are more veiny.  The area north of my lady bits now bears a charming c-section scar, though I suppose that’s a fair trade off for not peeing on myself when I sneeze.  The things I was hoping would get bigger (my not-at-all womanly hips and my flat butt…curse you, Dutch ancestors!) didn’t and the things I really didn’t want to get any bigger (my boobs) did.  And, while my boobs didn’t shrivel up and fall off after a total of two years of breastfeeding as I had feared, like my friend A, they’re not exactly in the same position and it takes a little more effort (expensive bras) to get those things to stand up again!

My daughters also seem to feel that my body is here solely for their amusement.  (My husband does too, but that’s a whole other topic.)  The girls like to play with my boobs while I’m reading bedtime stories, jiggle my squishy belly and play “booty drums” on my arse.  Seriously, it’s like having a never-ending unpleasant date with a handsy college kid.

motherhood_barbie_dollWhich brings me to the two parts of my body most profoundly changed by motherhood…my brain and my heart.  As for my brain, well, let’s just say the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be.  I walk into a room and promptly forget why I’m there, I have the concentration of a toddler, I can’t remember the names of people I see on a weekly basis and the stories I tell no longer necessarily contain a beginning, middle and end.  I would describe a conversation with one of my other 40-something, mom friends as more of a dusty, unraveling tapestry than a road map.  Granted, some of these things may be due in part to entering my 40s, but since these changes began at the same time as my first pregnancy, this is my story and I’m sticking to it.  When this mental downward slide began, I mentioned my concern about it to my psychiatrist.  He told me not to worry, that I was a busy mother of two young children and a swiss-cheese brain was just a natural side effect.  This gave me no comfort until he said, “If you’re aware that your mind is a little fuzzy and you forget things, all is well.  It’s when you start forgetting the things you’ve forgotten, then it’s time to worry.”  Luckily, I’m fully aware that I’ve become a bumbling idiot.  So I’ve got that going for me.  Which is nice.

It is, however, my heart that has taken the most shrapnel in the process of becoming a mother.  My favorite quote about parenthood is “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone)  It is the absolute best possible description of the transformation that occurred the moment I became a mother.  Like my stomach, my heart is now squishier and, like most of the rest of my body, my daughters have claimed complete ownership of it.  I am no longer the pragmatic law student who could help defend a medical malpractice case involving a baby without blinking an eye and even just the trailer of a movie about a child abduction now has me running to the lobby for more popcorn.  My newly squishy heart is also the cause of the Seven-Year War between it and my brain over whether to go back to work and seek my fortune out in the “real world” or stay home and bathe in every wonderful, maddening, hilarious, heartbreaking, mundane moment of motherhood.

All I can say is that, as the years fly by and my body becomes more and more of a science experiment, I will do my very best to give it the honor and respect that it deserves.  And if I ever hear of Emma Gray of the Huffington Post complaining about those extra 10 pounds or mentioning her budding jowls and chin hairs, that bitch is going to have some explaining to do.  (Sorry to call you a bitch, Emma.  I’m not a “professional” writer and sometimes I stoop to using expletives when I’m at a loss for words.  I hope we can be friends.)

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If Mom Could See Me Now

mom_and_jackie_wedding

One of my most vivid memories of my mother, and the one that haunts me the most, is the day when I, as an omnipotent, know-it-all 17 year-old, said that I’d “never be JUST a housewife” like her. She slapped me right across the face (as well she should have) and told me that any sacrifices she made, were made for me and my brother and that she was happy to do it. There’s not a day that has gone by in the last 11 years in which I haven’t regretted my stupid, spiteful words.

I’d prefer not to begin this blog with an unbearably sad entry, but today is the anniversary of my mom’s death and a wise friend suggested I honor her by making this my first blog post. It seems only fitting since the overriding purpose for this blog is to give you a bird’s eye view of my attempt to claw my way back up the cliff that once was my career. That was, of course, before I went on permanent sabbatical to become, yes, “just a housewife” and stay-at-home mom to my smart, adorable, infuriating daughters, aged 5 and 7, who already bear more than a passing resemblance to that smart-ass 17 year-old.

I promise we’ll have lots of laughs along the way. In my family, we have a long history of using humor to help deal with life’s twists and turns. In fact, my sweet mother would be laughing her ass off if she could see me now! (As well she should.)