From Here to Maternity

I had about 18 different anxiety attacks this past weekend.
Monday was my first day back at work. I felt disoriented and a little depressed, but, at the same time, it felt oddly normal to be back in the office amongst my coworkers. The pumping ordeal was certainly new, but if I didn't think about it, I felt like the same person I was before I had the baby.

Only, the moment someone asked me how I was holding up, I would break into uncontrollable tears.

The aspect of returning to work that felt the most different was not at work at all. It was my commute. No one offered me a seat. I had been so pregnant for so long, and then after that, I was always lugging around my giant baby. But now I was just an ordinary lumpy thirty-something taking the subway to and from work.

Brian's sister had agreed to watch Max for my first few weeks back. When I got home, the two of them were sitting on the couch playing. I had been gone for ten hours. I imagined that when I walked through the door, he might reach for me. Or smile at me. Or acknowledge my existence in some way. But Max barely seemed to notice I was there. When Jessie left, Max started to get grouchy, so I fed him, and he fell asleep. Then he woke up and cried, I fed him, and he fell asleep again. Some hello!

I felt like saying, "Hey, Kid! You're looking at Ol' Milk Bags over here. Show some respect."

By the time Brian got home, I was beside myself. For all the nursing and cooing and sleepless nights and zombie days, for all my bouncing and lugging and shushing and getting pooped on and peed on and spit-up on and drooled on, to my 12 week old, I was nothing more than the family cow.

Last night I held Max for as long as I could. Long after he fell asleep. I didn't want to put him down. His warmth and his smell made me feel good. But maybe we are missing a vital connection. I absolutely adore him and feel linked to him in some deep, hormonal way I can't understand. But mentally, I still can't get over the fact that I have a kid now, and that I am this little human's mother. Maybe Max can't understand how he could be the son of the family cow.

Here is a picture I took on my last Thursday of maternity leave: Max and fellow baby Milo in Prospect Park:

I also took another picture of Max mocking that iconic Cosmo centerfold of David Hasselhoff:

Maybe my two worlds — my world before Max and my world now since — will finally be reconciled on Take Your Child to Work Day.

Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip

During the last election, people called John McCain's health into question because he had had cancer.

"What kind of cancer?" I asked Brian.

"Skin cancer."

"Skin cancer?!? I thought it was something serious, like lung or brain or pancreatic. No one dies of skin cancer."

Brian and I then had an argument about whether people could die from skin cancer. I lost. People apparently do die of skin cancer. I felt bad about my insensitivity. Growing up in South Florida, I was just so used to skin cancer being a regular occurrence among the leathery elderly. I thought it was just a matter of getting an unsightly mole removed. But, yes, people definitely do die of skin cancer. Ouch.

Brian forgave me. But maybe God felt differently.

About a year ago I noticed what appeared to be a small blemish over my lip. But it never seemed to go away. Sometimes it would get to looking a little worse, and then a little better, but it was always there. Finally, in my last trimester of pregnancy, I made an appointment with the dermatologist. I thought it was maybe a cyst.

But it was not a cyst. It was a basal cell carcinoma. This is non-malignant. A nothing, really. Something people often get when they are old and/or spend a nice amount of time in the sun. Still, the diagnosis freaked me out. I am almost never in the sun, and I am almost always wearing sunscreen on my face. This is because I hate being hot and I hate sweating and I dislike the sunshine, but also because a previous dermatologist told me this was a good way of fighting my genetic predisposition to condition I like to call "badger eyes".

So even though I've spent a lifetime dodging the sun, I still fell victim to a stupid, totally lame skin cancer.

On Wednesday, I went in to have my dumb thing removed using a procedure called Mohs. Brian came with me and took care of Max in the waiting room while doctors and medical assistants poked at my lip and then sewed me up.

Max was in the BabyBjorn carrier. Previously, Brian and I had observed that randoms were much more likely to suggest I was torturing our child than Brian. But Wednesday proved otherwise.

One older, crazy-looking woman to Brian that the baby looked uncomfortable in the carrier. Then she said, in what Brian characterized as a "loud, internal monologue": "Daddy, daddy, take me out of this straight-jacket and hold me in your arms like a normal person!"

Later, a man Brian described as "an old yuckster" also chimed in. While Brian was feeding Max, he remarked, "You can tell that baby is malnourished by his three chins. Ha!"

I don't know what I had expected, but I left the doctor's office with a surprisingly large, ugly bandage over my lip. All that day and the next, I kept passing people on the street and thinking, "What the hell is that person looking at?!" But then I remembered that they were staring at the big, crusty bandage above my lip.

I went into a cafe to order an iced coffee and the kid behind the counter said, "Hey, you've got chocolate or something on your face."

I had forgotten and was reminded yet again. With a twinge of shame, I said, "No. It's just stitches."

The kid said, "Oh. You fell? That happened to me, too."

My parents and sister and her family were in town this weekend. My sister's son Jake is almost a year old. He seemed to show some interest in his cousin. He kept trying to play with Max, which involved batting him around, poking at him, and tackling him. Max, with his flippery, non-working arms and wobbly neck, mostly sat there defensless until he was bowled over and we pried his cousin off him. It was interesting.

Here are some pictures I took of the two cousins playing together:

My family was here for my new nephew's bris. Welcome to the world, little Yehuda!

Also, because you never tier of pictures of my baby, here is Max posing with a gift sent to us by our friend Dave's mom, Marilyn:

This is my last week of maternity leave. I am very anxious about separating from my little fellow. I know it will be fine, but I am dreading it, just the same. How will I function in a world filled with more than just baby poop and spit-up? Will I find other topics about which to talk?

Changes and Staying-the-sames

There were things that people warned me about concerning childbirth.

Everyone warned me that the pain would be mortifying. But nobody told me that I would continue to feel like total crap and wouldn't even be able to sit for several weeks afterward.

I knew that I wouldn't walk out of the hospital with a body that looked like it was ready for the beach. But I had no idea that I would continue to look like a whale for upwards of a year. Why is it taking me so long to deflate? I have been trapped in my maternity clothes all these months. It's awful. When I complain about this, people now tell me that it took them six months, nine months, a year to get back into their regular clothes.

Why didn't anyone tell me this beforehand? I would have bought nicer maternity clothes.

I finally did the thing that a number of people had been suggesting I do: shop for a new wardrobe of non-maternity clothes that fit my larger, lumpier body. It was a horribly depressing affair. Brian and Max tagged along to make sure I didn't try to commit suicide in the try-on room.

Lately, Max has been having pre-bedtime meltdowns starting at around 9 o'clock in the evening. This means we can no longer schlep him out for late dinners or trips to bars. We will have to be more parental. Our little, fun animal, which we have been strapping to us and carrying around like a silly puppet, is becoming ever more human. And child-like. And like a real child, he is beginning to throw regular temper-tantrums.

I am happy to soon be returning to work, to the land of the living, where people are aware of time and date and talk about more than just poopy diapers and spit-up. But thinking about leaving Max for almost ten hours each day also fills me with incredible sadness. And who knows if I'll still have time on the weekends to dress him up and take pictures of him. My little muse. Ah. I am getting choked up again.

Here are a few pictures I took recently:


"I'm a cowboy, on an umbrella stroller I ride."

Also, last week I asked Brian to swaddle Max, read to him, then put him to bed. When I checked in ten minutes later, this is what I found:

The were so soundly asleep, they didn't even stir when the camera flash went off repeatedly.

My last show-and-tell for the day does not have to do with Max. It is a sign Brian saw in a discount store in our neighborhood:

Brian says, "Do they mean assorted?"

My brother's wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy at the close of this last shabbos. We met him briefly on Sunday. This makes the third grandson for my parents in less than a year. He will receive a name at his bris, which is this weekend. I will let you know more later.


Everyone has an opinion.
Which is fine, but not everyone should voice theirs out loud.

On Friday, Max and I travelled to the Upper East Side to visit my 92 year old grandmother. We were on the train, heading uptown, and Max was in his carrier, asleep, head leaning to one side. A woman seated across from me kept stealing glances. For some reason, I thought she was going to tell me what a beautiful little angel I had. Instead, when she opened her mouth, she said, "His neck hurts. You shouldn't carry him like that."

I've noticed that nosy neighbor types often tell you their opinion like it's fact. Not: "It looks like his neck may be hurting him." Or: "Sleeping at that angle may eventually hurt his neck." Friends of mine have gotten: "Her head is cold" and "she can't see" or "he can't breathe." Once, a friend of mine, who received such a comment while food shopping with her mother and infant daughter, responded, "Thanks, but I already have a Jewish mother. And she's standing right here."

Once we arrived at my grandmother's, she gave me a once-over, then declared, "I see you still have that big belly."


Later, after I had fed Max, my grandmother observed, "Your breasts look flat. Is it because they're empty?"

What a charmer. She does appear to adore Max, though. One of my hobbies of late is shoving my son in people's faces so they will tell me how wonderful and adorable they think he is. Nonna has had nothing but nice things to say about Max, so I will forgive the mean-spirited comments she makes about me.

Here are some pictures I took of our visit to Nonna:

Last night we took Matt & Marina's advice about bathing (Miles pictured below):

We covered Max in about 9,000 schmattas. It looked like he was having a crazy-person's spa treatment. I can't say he enjoyed the experience, but he no longer acted like he was being tortured in order to reveal government secrets.

Brian took a video of Max babbling and laughing last week.

This evening, Brian recorded another video. This one has a surprise ending. Make sure your volume is turned up.

Ha! Babies never get old!