Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mom, Alone

When I found out I was pregnant, I swore to myself that I wouldn't change. I swore that I would be the same ole Erin, just with a baby. I know, I know, you've probably heard that story before. You've heard every first time mother who says that she's going to be the only mother in the world who is the same person after she has the baby as she was before.

Last week, LoLo took Alexia to New York for five days so I spent five long days and four long nights alone in our house (well, except for my little buddy, Bronx). In the days leading up to their trip, I was nervous. Not so much about them, but about myself.

See, after 20 months of being a mother, I couldn't remember who I was for the 31 years that I wasn't one. I truly couldn't remember who I was before early wake-ups and feeding someone else and schedules and adorable little girl clothes and Curious George (or Gigi as Alexia calls him).

The first day, Saturday, my mom and I went to Boston to a Red Sox game. Not only was it a great way to keep my mind off missing LoLo and Alexia, it was a great way to be reminded of something I've always loved.

The next day,  I slept late, took myself to lunch and went to the supermarket and got some of my favorite foods including fancy cheese that I would never buy otherwise. I spent time with my parents and grandparents and actually ate a meal at family dinner without interruptions or breaking my food into tiny pieces for someone else to nibble on.

By Tuesday night, although I was completely ready to see my little family, I was starting to remember who I was. I remembered that I don't cook and had cheese and crackers for dinner (and it was glorious!). I remembered that I love getting under a comfy blanket and yelling at the TV during Jeopardy (something I hadn't done since I was pregnant). I even remembered that I love eating ice cream.

I don't know anyone who hasn't been changed by motherhood. And I'll be the first to admit that I was totally naive to think I would just be "Erin with a baby." But although being Alexia's mom is my most important and most prominent role right now, it was nice to be reminded that I was a person before I had her and that person hasn't been lost. Sometimes that seems to get buried under the millions of kisses and pictures of my little girl and meals and baths and hugs and bedtimes and wake-ups and tears and dirty diapers. But those five days reminded me that it's important to let that side of me out every once in a while...because that person I was before I was Alexia's mom wasn't so bad.

Aaaaaaand an Alexia pic for good measure.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Dirty Laundry

I never thought I'd be writing a post about my literal dirty laundry, but here goes.

As much as I appear to have my life together at work and in other aspects of my life, I struggle with staying organized and having a clean home. There are times when I dread having people over because I know that even having them stop by means hours of cleaning that has to be done first so that I can feel comfortable showing them our home.

For the past year or so, I've had a pile of clothes mounting in the corner of our bedroom. Within the pile were bags of clean clothes, a large plastic container filled with shoes, mostly clean clothes, and a laundry basket full of clean clothes from (get ready to be shocked) two weeks after Alexia was born. Yes, I said a laundry basket full of clean clothes from approximately 13 months ago.

This mess has been a weight on me. Instead of our bedroom being a calming place to rest, it was a constant reminder of just how inadequate I am. It became the monkey on my back and left me feeling like there was no point in tackling it because it was just too big. I remember two times when I was looking for something in the pile, throwing things left and right, and I felt like the pile was closing in on me and I started feeling really anxious.

Once, my sister was taking pictures of me and Alexia in my bedroom. She ended up blurring the background so that the mess wasn't as noticeable. We laughed about it, but I felt awful, not to mention embarrassed.

The pile and Alexia in their infancy
I attacked the pile last weekend. I went through it fiercely. For eight hours, I sorted everything into small piles to hang, throw in the laundry, or donate. I came out with 4 (!!) bags of clothes to donate to Goodwill, 2 bags of garbage, and a really clean room.

But those aren't the only things I came out with. I came out with pride and a sense of accomplishment. I came out with a huge feeling of relief. A half hour after I was done, I had a couple of tears rolling down my face because the weight had finally been lifted.

The pile wasn't just a pile of clothes for me. It was something that took on a life of its own. It was overwhelming, it was painful, and it was persistent. Every time I looked at it, I heard it mocking me, telling me that I couldn't even manage to keep my room clean. I must be a horrible wife. I must be a horrible mom. 

As moms, and as humans in general, we all have things like this in our lives. A pile of clothes, a degree that remains unfinished, a project that lies half done, a choice we have to make. We can't let these things define us, but they are worth taking on if it means that there will be a sense of relief.

In my first year as a mom, I've struggled to find a good balance between spending time with Alexia, spending time with my family, taking care of LoLo, taking care of Bronx, taking care of the house, and somehow taking care of myself too. Over this year though, I've learned a lot about celebrating small victories. A clean bedroom, the moment Alexia puts her toys in the bucket when asked to clean up, LoLo thanking me for being a good wife. Those little victories are what life is all about.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why Caliente just isn't enough

This week on the Today Show, they have a special segment called "VivaToday" where they feature Latino culture, food, and music. The segment is in partnership with Telemundo (who is also owned by NBC).

This morning when they were introducing the segment and one of Telemundo's most famous anchors, Maria Celeste, one of the Today Show anchors Natalie Morales introduced Maria Celeste as another "caliente Puertoriquena" since she herself is also Puerto Rican (and Brazilian). Throughout the introduction, she managed to called Maria Celeste "caliente" several times, yet made no mention of her work as a journalist, host, and actress. All this after the Emmy's put Sofia Vergara on a pedestal and spun her around while the crowd applauded her body (also on NBC).

The show then proceeded to show a story about how Latinos will soon make up the largest ethnic group in the US while faces of dark haired and dark eyed people ran across the screen. There were no dark skinned Latinos shown and there were absolutely no light-featured Latinos shown.

The whole thing felt like propaganda to me. It felt like "Look at us, we are going to acknowledge Hispanics...but in the safest way possible." By turning Maria Celeste into just a "caliente Latina" and showing faces on the screen of only the people who you'd "assume" were Latino, people aren't forced to think beyond the stereotypes they already have.

And for those of us watching thinking "where am I on that screen?", what message is that sending us? What message does that send my light skinned, green-eyed daughter who looked nothing like the people shown on the screen? What does it tell her about her dark skinned father?

And for those of us who don't look like Sofia Vergara or Maria Celeste, what message does this send us? That we aren't important because as Latinas, all we can hope to achieve is "hotness"? And if you are good looking, all that is important, despite a long career as a journalist/host, is that you are caliente?

As a Latina mother, I want my daughter to know her accomplishments are important. I want her to be able to celebrate both her heritage and her accomplishments rather than having to choose one or the other. I want her to be able to identify with the people in the media and feel like she has role models who came from where she's come from. In the "changing face of America", to use the Today Show's words, I want her to see herself.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The first year

August 17th marked one year of Alexia. 365 days of firsts, tears (both hers and mine), laughs, smiles, pictures, outfits, diapers, milk, and other joys. For her birthday, I bought her a picture book called "Forever" and wrote her a note inside of it. I will write her a letter here as well to mark her first year.

All pics by my sister

My dearest Alexia, 

There are so many memories from this first year. The first time I saw you and thought "That beautiful baby can't be mine!" The first couple of weeks when I dreaded feeding you because it hurt too much. Using a small syringe to get some milk into your tiny body. Falling asleep by mistake with you laying on my chest. Using a football hold to feed you because that was the only hold they taught me in the hospital. Flying on the plane with you when you were only 12 weeks old. You sleeping 20 hours a day and eating at least 12 times a day. The little bassinet that you used to sleep in next to our bed so that I could just lay you down after you ate at night. Missing you when you finally moved into your crib in your own room. The fact that you used to nap in your snowsuit.

It feels like within just the last month you've grown so much and I just wasn't prepared. A week and a half before your birthday, you started really walking. You had taken a couple of steps before that, but on Wednesday, August 6th, you started consistently walking. You still stumble here and there and when you get tired, it's like you're drunk. You fall and crash into things and wobble like a drunk person.

You love to pretend you're on the phone. You take my phone or Grampa's phone or the baby monitor and put it on your shoulder and say "hiiiiiii". You love to wave to anyone and everyone. In the morning, you love to wave to Bronx in his cage.

I love the moment when you first see me in the morning when I go into your room to get you. Your face lights up and you get so happy. How can I be in a bad mood when your smiling face greets me?
 You are smiley and happy and love to laugh. Even when you don't feel good you are laughing and smiling and playing. You love to sing and dance. When we play mambo music, you dance almost immediately. It's clear you've got a lot of Latin blood running through your veins.

Right now you have your two bottom teeth and your two top teeth are coming in. It's been a rough time getting those two top teeth and we had a very hard weekend when we went to Vermont for the family reunion. You stayed up almost all night and then you cried almost the whole way home, to the point where I started to get really scared because you were hyperventilating.We did, however, get some amazing family photos at Aunt Theresa's beautiful lake house.

You bring so much joy to everyone who knows you. People are constantly stopping me and telling me what a beautiful baby you are and how well behaved you are. During your baptism, when the priest said your name, you waved to him and had the whole church laughing. Then, when we got up on the altar for the actual ceremony, you were pointing and waving at everyone. You have such a sweet personality and such a magnetic smile.

I can't wait to see the little person you become. It's already pretty clear that you are full of personality and that you're pretty stubborn. You are so smart and you love books. Your dad and I are constantly surprised by how much you know and how quickly you learn.

We love you, baby girl. You are our light when everything else is dark. You are the smile in the crowd. You are my favorite person. You have my favorite face. One year later, I still can't believe you're ours.

Love you forever my girl,

Your mama

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

All the things I don't want to forget

About 3 months ago, I had to make a trip to San Diego for work. On the flight home, I felt the urge to write a blog post about all of the things I didn't want to forget about life with Alexia at 7.5 months. Well, I wrote the post, but I never transferred it to blogger.

So, here it is. All of the things I don't want to forget about 7.5 month old Alexia. Now that she's 10.5 months.

There are so many things I don’t want to forget about these first 7.5 months of Alexia’s life. The way her sleepy little head rests on my shoulder with her chubby little cheek against mine when she wakes up in the middle of the night to eat. The way her little hands grab at my shirt when I’m feeding her as if she wants it pulled down for some privacy. The way she looks at me when she first wakes up with that huge smile. The way she blows raspberries in the morning when she wakes up in her crib and I hear it over the monitor. The way she completely cracks up when we throw a ball to the dogs and they jump up to catch it. The way she gets so excited for her oatmeal. The way she sips water from a cup that LoLo holds to her lips.

Alexia, 7 months

 It’s funny because seven and a half months seems like such a short amount of time, but there are already things from her first few weeks and months that I totally forget. I forget what it was like to hold that tiny little body on my shoulder while I burped her because now her feet touch my legs when I hold her like that. I forget what it was like to put her down and have her not move from where she is. I forget what it was like to be in a complete haze of sleeplessness and new love. I forget what it was like to have a baby who slept 20 hours a day and who had to nap every 1.5 hours or else she’d get overtired.

Alexia, 8 months at the Children's Museum in Chicago
But what I am loving right now is watching her become this little person with a bright, sunny personality. I know I always say this, but she is such a good baby. She really is just so sweet. Sometimes I wonder how LoLo and I got this lucky. We are both moody people who can have really crappy attitudes, yet here we are with the sweetest little girl who adapts to every situation and smiles and laughs and just generally brings joy to everyone she encounters. To me, it feels like she was meant for us. She makes me a better person because I can’t help but be happy around her.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Being a mom is hard.... And not just in the I never sleep, someone relies on me to live kind of way. In the I am now bound to a life of worry and second guessing kind of way. There are tiny moments where I forget I'm a mom. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny. Most times when I "forget", there's a tiny baby sock on the floor or on the couch or on the ottoman (seriously...I find baby socks everywhere!!) to remind me.

The other night as I came up to bed, I saw the clothes Alexia had worn that day on our bed and I immediately thought about how much I love her. And how I can't believe we are keeping her forever. Almost ten months in and I still can't believe she's ours to keep.

Another amazing pic my sister took
I would be lying if I said I don't think about life before the baby. Not because she is a bad baby or because I don't love her, because neither of those things are true, but because the things I worried about before Alexia seem so trivial now. I have developed a minor anxious feeling (I definitely wouldn't call it anxiety right now) because I worry about my little girl. Apparently this is what parenthood really is. Worrying about this tiny person who keeps growing and facing new challenges and presenting me with new challenges. I worry if I'm feeding her the right things, if I'm stimulating her mind enough, if I'm reading enough books to her, if she should be walking, if she should be writing novels by now and earning her PhD.

I would categorize myself as a pretty laid back mom. I like to expose Alexia to lots of new situations and people so that she is comfortable. She has already been to at least five baseball games in her short lifetime. She's already flown four times. She's been to a zoo and a children's museum and parties and dinners and on walks around town. I'm not overly worried about dirt and germs.

 But still, I find myself worrying about the night that she'll get the flu and be up all night. I worry that my heart will break, wishing it could be me that was sick instead of her. I worry that some boy (or girl) will break her heart someday and I won't be able to help. I worry that she won't feel beautiful or smart or loved.

One more time
 These are the things I worry about. The things that for me, make being a mom tough. The things that won't get any easier with time and that I will always worry about. Sometimes I think back to those days before I had her and think of the silly things I worried about. They weren't silly then, but this new little life has made me realize what's actually worth worrying about.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The last day

I've been meaning to write and I've got posts already drafted, but tonight something happened that I felt I just had to blog about. And Dad, this one might be TMI. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tonight I cried because tomorrow will be the last time I pump at work. (well, until we have our next kid... so the last time for a reallllly long time.) Like, legitimate tears came out of my eyes and down my face. About pumping. About something I've complained about for the past 8 months. About something I've dreaded doing every three hours during work and sometimes at home. About something I stressed over for months (do I have enough milk for when I go away? can I go away and find time to pump during the conference? will there be a private bathroom in the airport? when I find that private bathroom will people leave me alone long enough to actually pump?). The struggle is real, y'all.

At first, I ran to the sun room to tell Danny that tomorrow would be the last time I pump! Then it turned into tomorrow will be the....last...time...I...p....(sniffle)ump....

When I first started crying I was kind of laughing, saying, "can you believe I'm crying about pumping?" But then after about 30 seconds, I realized it was real.

I wasn't crying because I wouldn't get to be hooked up to a machine (one that failed me 3 times nonetheless) three times a day. It's not about the machine. It's about the fact that three times a day, I got to stop and really think about my little girl even though she wasn't there with me. Three times a day I got to do something just for her, something I knew would help her grow. Three times a day I got to think about just how incredible my body was for being able to nourish her little body.

On top of that, I got to create a really special bond with some other mothers who just seemed to get it. They understood what it meant to be in that tiny room without windows three times a day, sometimes for 40 minutes at a time, no matter what else was going on at work. They knew what it felt like to be late for meetings or to miss parts of meetings or to drop everything and run downstairs because even when you're at work, your baby is your number one priority. They understood how significant being down even one ounce a day was. They understood how hard it was for me to stock up enough milk to feed my baby for an entire week while I was at a conference. They understood what it meant to miss your baby on those Monday mornings when you just had an amazing weekend of cuddling and complete bliss.

I'm sad that I won't have that daily check in with my mom friends. Having that support has meant so much to me as a new mom. I know the support won't go away, but it obviously won't be the same.

Today as I was getting ready to leave the lactation room, there was a new mom who I had never seen in there before. She asked me a few questions and I happily answered, but I also gave her something that some of the other moms there had given me months ago: it gets easier. Leaving your baby at daycare gets easier, pumping gets easier, finding a balance gets easier, figuring out who you are as a mom gets easier. It all gets easier.

So while I didn't really enjoy the actual act of pumping, I'm glad for what it has given me. New friends, a special bond with my daughter, and a sense of accomplishment for making it almost 8 complete months at work (and traveling) while breastfeeding.