Balance, Birth, Hopes, Pregnancy

How Much of Your Family do you Share on the Internet?

We all want to protect our kids on the Internet, but where do we draw the line? Photo Credit: Sean Malone Photography
We all want to protect our kids on the Internet, but where do we draw the line? Photo Credit: Sean Malone Photography

This is not a new question. Everyone has their own approach. Some of my friends share nothing, others share everything. As a blogger, I often get caught in the middle. On the one hand, sharing is part of what I do, on the other, I want to protect the stories of others, the stories that do not belong to me alone.

When it came to pregnancy, my husband and I were cautious about how quickly and how much we shared. Still, as time passed and we became more and more excited, more and more trickled onto the web. Then, when E. was born, I could not help but shout everything from my keyboard, pictures and all.

The reality is we live in a world where a lot of our connections are enhanced by technology. When I share pictures, it is not so the girl who sat four desks behind me in sophomore chemistry can tell so-and-so, “Guess who had a baby?” Instead, I share so my mom, mother-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close friends can take part in my joy, (and, it is a whole lot easier to post an album to Facebook than to try and email a batch of pictures. Trust me, I have tried).

So, this morning, I deleted more than 100 “friends” from Facebook. I went quickly, so I am sure some stayed who shouldn’t have, and some went who maybe should have stayed, but it felt good. Darn good. I only kept people who I see in real life, who I would love to see if they were closer, or who I have formed an Internet connection with because of similar-aged babies, etc. Everyone else went, including I am sure, some perfectly nice people who I hardly know.

While the Facebook cleanse was liberating, it still did not address the bigger question; how much of my family should I share on the Internet? Here is what I have decided:

1. Facebook: I only plan to share pictures for extended family/close friends. On that same vein, I am only accepting friend requests from people who meet the above criteria. While I get why some people want huge friend lists for networking purposes, I have decided my personal Facebook will be used to share my (somewhat) personal life. This still does not address the issue of how companies use Facebook to data mine for personal tidbits, but I figure if I use it more for pictures than for words, the better.

2. Blog: This is where things get trickier. I want to blog about motherhood but I don’t want to give away my daughter’s story without her permission, (and, let’s get real, she can’t give her permission for another seventeen and a half years…). My decision is to focus my blog more on my experiences as a mom than on her experiences as a child. Along that same vein, she will now be referred to as E. and pictures will be chosen very carefully, especially as she transitions out of babyhood. Eventually I plan to include no pictures of her face.

Phew. That’s a lot to decree and the truth is that I am still figuring it out. My generation is in a unique position as new parents because social media became a big part of our lives before our kids arrived. I completely get wanting to share more or less with this digital world, as I often feel conflicted myself. I would like to hear about your approach to sharing your family on the Internet. Where is your line of comfort? I realized I had been skirting along the edge of mine for months and it was time to take a new approach.

Balance, Health, Hopes, Pregnancy

Marriage: The Importance of Being After Baby

Becoming a family of three has changed our lives for the better, but it is easy to overlook the importance of time spent just the two of us.
Becoming a family of three has changed our lives for the better, but it is easy to overlook the importance of time spent just the two of us.

As I kid, I cringed at the thought of being relegated to the domestic sphere. I thought I needed to be out in the big world to be happy. Success came from external achievements, not from the quiet life of hearth and home. Maybe I will need those things again one day, but for now, I am enjoying a simpler season as a mom and wife.

I throw in the word wife because it is so easy to become wrapped up in motherhood to the point of forgetting I used to prioritize my marriage as my number one family commitment. Now, it is easy to put our relationship on the bottom of the to-do list with the assumption that more than a decade together is enough to keep things stable.

While I am confident we have the foundation to weather a little less attention, I also recognize the importance of continuing to put work into our relationship. Not a day goes by where I am unaware of the sacrifices my husband makes marching off into the world to make sure we have what we need to live. While I get more than enough time with our baby girl, he often does not.

Accordingly, I have consciously sought to lessen my husband’s domestic workload. As a result, the division of labor in our house has taken on a decidedly more gendered tone. The kitchen and indoor tasks are principally my domain. The little girl version of myself would cry sexism, but the adult version recognizes it is a natural division of labor when one parent works outside the home. I don’t do everything, but I do more.

Even so, maintaining our marriage is more than just doing. In the beginning of my time at home, I made the mistake of thinking doing was the secret. I made his breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I stopped asking him to unload the dishwasher. I went out of my way to do whatever I could to make his limited time at home inclusive of more baby interaction. What I lost sight of was the being. In the midst of doing, doing, doing, I forgot to stop and be with my husband.

Thankfully it did not take long to realize what was missing. Now, on those nights I am lucky enough to get Eloise to sleep early enough that I still have energy left, I no longer do anything. Maybe the dishes will be dirty in the morning. Maybe the living room will be scattered with toys. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that my husband and I get to hang out for a bit before going to sleep.

We used to take pictures together all the time, now I have to remind myself to turn the camera away from our child once in a while and capture us too.
We used to take pictures together all the time, now I have to remind myself to turn the camera away from our child and capture us too.

In the last weeks before Eloise was born, I mourned the perceived loss of our early years together as a couple. After more than a decade of uninterrupted attention, I feared we would forget the deep love we had shared alone for all those years. I didn’t worry we would end up not loving each other, I just worried there would not be enough time to appreciate one another in the same way. While I was right about there being less time, there is also something deeper between us.

I will never forget the first time Alex held me in his arms after Eloise was born. I am not talking about sex, this isn’t that kind of blog. I am talking about the most intense intimacy I have ever experienced. Giving birth beat the bejesus out of me. After weeks of the worst sleep deprivation, my body hurt beyond any of my expectations, and I felt the complete opposite of beautiful. Still, I managed to put the baby down and let Alex hold me instead.

Tears streamed down my face as I let him love me, appreciate me. I felt beautiful for the first time in weeks, wanted beyond any feeling I had ever experienced before. We had made it through the craziest adventure of our life, her birth, and now we were bonded by shared flesh, a living, breathing being with each of our genes, asleep in the other room. It was more powerful than the moment we looked at each other in the hospital and realized both our hearts had been removed and put inside that little six-pound person. It was a love my pregnant self could not mourn. I was so relieved.

Still, that moment disappeared into months of nightly screaming, more sleep deprivation, and all the other trials early parenthood brings. It once again became easy to spend those quiet moments quickly cleaning the house or attending to my other needs, like a moment to read my email or write a blog or God knows what else. However, something was missing, and I remembered not to forget my closest friend, my husband.

It is often easier to do than be, but I believe being is the secret to a sustainable, happy marriage. You have to stop, look, listen, touch, even if it means something else is not getting done. I know I will need this reminder again and again in the busy years to come.

Balance, Health, Pregnancy

Babes & Dogs, It Really Can Work.

A younger Eloise with her bestie, Odin.
A younger Eloise with her bestie, Odin.

My dogs were my babies before Eloise. I might have been a bit crazy, but that’s just between us. I had a hoodie sweatshirt for my first-born, a 15-pound Pomeranian mix. Many of our family vacations revolved around pet-friendly accommodations at the beach. You get the picture. However, as soon as my baby bump started to show, fellow dog-lovers-turned-parents began with the warnings.

Your dogs won’t be your babies anymore, they’ll be dogs. You won’t have time for them. They won’t matter like they used to.

My husband and I were convinced others were wrong, but we tried to prepare ourselves anyway. We kicked them out of our bed, (yes, not only do I sleep with babies, I also sleep with dogs…). We got them used to their crates again. We changed their pain-in-the-butt raw food diet to one that included bags and cans.

The dogs are the source of many of Eloise's smiles.
The best news: the dogs are the source of many of Eloise’s smiles.

Then Eloise came along and people were right, for a few months. When we first got home from the hospital I was a seething beast ready to break their necks if they harmed her. The intensity of my emotions even scared me. I didn’t trust them, which was the correct approach, but still, break their necks? In those first months, the poor creatures were reduced to minimal attention and only the occasional walk.

Despite my lack of trust, I still loved them, but I could hardly take care of myself and this new human we brought home with us. It didn’t help that Odin took it upon himself to protect me and the baby by growling at company and that Simon would not even come near me, (he must have known I was a little unstable…). Fortunately, it all got better.

The bonus, she is also fascinated by them.
The bonus, she is also fascinated by them.

As Eloise became sturdier, I let them get a little closer, guard still up. It helped that she has loved them from the moment she could process their existence. Now, they are a consistent source of smiles, babble, and giggles in our household. Every morning starts with a sit on the floor and a wagging greeting from her furry friends. When grandma babysits, Odin is often a way to stop the fussing. We let her pet the dogs with her feet and an occasional well-guarded hand. They often lie next to her on the floor.

I know you can’t ever fully trust an animal with a child, but we are to the point where I don’t think about harming my beloved doggies anymore. We keep a close eye when they are near the baby and remove them if their body language is less than relaxed. I have a feeling as more children are added to the family, dogs get forgotten more and more, but the good news is our family pack is tighter than I expected. 

Another bonus, dogs also provide crawling lessons.
Another unexpected bonus, dogs provide free crawling lessons.

The dogs may get a little less attention and a skipped walk here and there, but we still love them and they’re coming around to loving our growing family just as much. The best part, the part I did not think about before baby was born, is how much joy Eloise takes from their existence. I have a feeling the three of them are going to be great friends. Thank goodness.

Attachment Parenting, Balance, Health, Pregnancy, Yoga

What I didn’t expect about the first month of parenthood

7AM again and the nightshift is just ending. I have been awake nearly as much as I have been asleep, but I don’t mind, this is my favorite part of our routine. Instead of lying in the basinet, she is next to me, our last attempt at sleep before morning is officially here and she refuses to lie in bed. Her eyes are open and staring at me, her warm breath on my cheek, our faces just inches from one another. The sweet smell of baby fills my being. She is happy, I am happy, it is one of those moments where nothing else matters.

In the last weeks of pregnancy people constantly told me, “Enjoy being pregnant, your life will never be the same.” As silly as it sounds now, those words filled me with trepidation. I was overjoyed to become a mom, but suddenly I found myself clinging to the life my husband and I shared alone. What I did not realize is I would never want my life to be the same.

In the last four weeks I have discovered many other things I did not expect about becoming a parent, some trivial, some life-changing:

1. The body changes during birth and recovery are more manageable than they sound. All the tongue-in-cheek blog posts, while honest and enlightening, made the transformation seem like the world’s worst torture. While it has definitely not been a day at the beach, all of the (sometimes intense) physical discomforts have been overshadowed by the excitement of being a new parent. In other words, ladies, don’t worry about all the gruesome side effects, you won’t mind nearly as much as you thought you would.

2. Hormones. I did not expect to cry as much as I have in the last few weeks. I cry when I’m happy, sad, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, watching a movie, watching a sitcom… I will probably cry at some point while writing this post.

3. No matter how much thought goes into each parenting decision, someone will think you are wrong. Sleeping arrangements, breast feeding, supplementation, you name it, someone out there will have a very different opinion and not be shy about vocalizing it. This has been one of the hardest lessons of new parenthood. I did not expect to care what others think. I am only now, after a month, beginning to emerge from the anxiety of not pleasing everyone.

4. Nothing in my life has been as animalistic as having a child. From the intensity of birth to the insane feeding schedules and even more insane sleeping routines, I have never felt so connected to my physical self. Even more shocking is the intensity behind my need to protect my child. When the dogs move too quickly in her vicinity, an instinctual ability to destroy any threat rises inside me. This power, while somewhat superhuman, is so primal it scares me.

5. Sleep is relative. When I heard friends talk about how they were still getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night with a new baby but that  the sleep was broken up, I thought, alright, no biggie, I already wake up 5 times a night to pee while pregnant. What I did not expect was how difficult it would be to feed a restless baby for hours on end in the middle of the night then go back to sleep for an hour and a half and wake up to do it all over again two or three more times. But, here is the magic. Somehow, by 10-11AM, I feel human again because those sleep chunks really do add up. I am both exhausted and rested beyond what I expected.

6. Yoga has made my postpartum life better. I am not supposed to exercise for another couple weeks. I thought I would ignore this advice, but the truth is, my body is not ready to move more than required. However, yoga has taught me to find peace in even the smallest moments. I slip into meditation while I nurse. I let go of every muscle in my body for savasana when I lie down in bed. I breathe deeply while she screams. It all helps.

7. Discomfort over others holding my baby. I thought I would have no problem passing the baby around. Instead, I find myself waiting for people to ask to hold her and then insisting they wash their hands and grilling them about their recent health histories. Then, when they are holding the baby, I watch where they put their hands, cringing if they touch their eyes or scratch their face, uncomfortable if they touch their lips to her, or worse yet, stick their finger in her mouth…

8. Extreme pleasure over others holding my baby. Yes, I know what I just described above, but there is also a true joy in watching the people I love pour their love into her, kisses and all. At family dinners, she is adored, half a dozen faces surrounding her in those rare newborn eyes-open moments. My heart is warm in knowing how many people she has brought happiness. I knew others were excited, but I did not know how happy a new baby could make an entire clan of people. So, I guess I am just going to have to be a little less neurotic about sharing germs.

Above all, I did not expect becoming a parent to happen as naturally as it has. I had so many concerns before we decided to have a baby. I worried about finances and other life goals. I was concerned I would stop writing or waste all the time I spent setting up my classroom and establishing myself as a teacher. What I did not expect is that none of this really mattered. It could all be figured out with time and the things I thought were most important really pale in comparison to the intense emotions of parenthood. I would not trade what we have now for anything.

Pretty cool.

One month!

Birth, Hopes, Pregnancy

37 Weeks: Almost Time.

I’m excited for little things, like day trips to Bodega Bay for fish and chips and walks on the beach, baby in her carrier, dogs on their leashes. A drive down the coast to the aquarium in Monterrey, where she’ll see another world underwater. I’m excited for long walks through our neighborhood, first in her stroller, later on a tricycle. Her first Christmas trip to San Francisco with our big, loud family.

I can’t wait to be able to lie on my back again when I sleep, to drink a whole glass of wine or a pint of beer, to go to yoga and bend my body any way I’d like. I can’t wait to move again, in a normal way. I fantasize about putting on my running shoes and running full force down the street, as though I ever liked to run in the first place. I can feel it though, the exhilaration of full exertion, the bounce of a good pair of shoes.

I’m curious about the sensations, the rushes or the pain, depending on who you ask or what you read. I want to know what it feels like. I’m expecting sleepless days and nights, exhaustion beyond anything I can imagine. I’m expecting the hardest thing I ever do, because that is how people describe it.

Mostly, though, I am imagining her in my arms, or beside me in the sleeper next to our bed, or sitting in the swing next to our television, or crawling across our floor with toys strewn everywhere. She is both real and imagined, all there is left to do is wait.

Each day of waiting is a strange balance of rest and preparation, a little writing mixed in for fun. Somehow middle grade fiction is pouring out of my fingers without the promise of enough time to finish before she is here. The change in genre is refreshing, the lower word count a goal I might be able to reach before everything changes. Each non-labor contraction brings it all back home again.

Change is near and I’m excited.

Even the dogs seem to know it is almost time.
Even the dogs seem to know it is almost time.