Saturday, November 25, 2006


I've been doing some reading about the FDA's recent decision to lift the ban on silicone breast implants, and I have to admit I'm conflicted about this decision. Personally, I think implants are a bit silly--I think it is important to be satisfied with one's body. That said, I don't think I have the right to tell another woman that she shouldn't get implants. So when I read FDA Approval of Dangerous Implants During Lame Duck Session Follows FDA Pattern of Favoring Money and Politics Over Science, I was somewhat conflicted. First of all, I've done some research on the science--there isn't any real scientific evidence linking silicone to any illnesses suffered by the women who experienced leaks in the past. Second, and here is where my real conflict comes in, it is a woman's choice to get implants as much as it is her choice to have an abortion, have a child, or use birth control. It seems to me that the FDA has made women aware of the potential risks, and many, many women (about 300,000 a year if I remember the stat correctly) choose to get implants, and many women prefer silicone to saline. The NOW article annoys me for the same reason that articles about the "Mommy Wars" irritate me. Many feminists (and I proudly call myself a feminist and plan to raise my son to be one as well) seem to forget that the purpose of feminism was to give women more choices, not to limit their choices or, worse, castigate them for their choices that some see as anti-feminist.

Sack Kerouack!

NOW has an electronic petition to keep Eric Kerouack, who advocates an abstinence only birth control policy, from being appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Populations Affairs. Check out and sign the Sack Kerouack! petition.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Here is what I'm thankful for . . .

I am a mother

I don't mean to state the obvious, especially as this blog has become more a discussion of motherhood than academia, but I'm still processing the recent changes in my life. Motherhood sort of snuck up on me, which is odd considering that C and I planned for S for quite some time. In the grand scheme of things, it didn't take us a long time to get pregnant (7 months, but only 4 cycles), but it did take us a while to feel prepared to have a family. I have since learned that there is no way I could have been really prepared for motherhood. At least once a day, I suddenly realize that I am a mother. It is a wonderful, glorious, scary, daunting, and beautiful feeling. As intimidating as that realization is, I wouldn't change anything about our lives now. Even though S is only a month old (only! I already feel like my little boy is growing up too fast!), I feel like I've known him forever. He is definitely the best of both C and I--and I even feel that way when he keeps us up in the middle of the night, as he did last night.


Allow me to introduce you all to one of my good friends, Supadiscomama. She is also an academic mother; her son is 17 weeks old, and she's currently studying for her prelim exams. And she has some really interesting things to say.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Things about motherhood no one can prepare you for #2

Breastfeeding is messy, particularly when S hasn't nursed in a few hours. During the day, we manage to stay pretty clean, as he is eating every few hours (if not every hour), but at night, we both get soaked at least once. When he comes off the breast, he doesn't give much warning, so often, he ends up with breast milk all over his face, and I end up with it all over whatever I'm wearing. I've done more laundry and gone through more stain remover in the past week than I thought possible.

So all potential new mothers, wear old clothes to bed, buy really good breast pads (I recommend Lansinoh pads), and invest in some stain remover!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Things about motherhood no one can prepare you for . . .

My friend Supadiscomama has commented on my posts "Things no one tells you about motherhood." She pointed out that even if she had told me all of these things I likely wouldn't have understood or even believed her until S was born. I think she may be right, so I'm changing the title of these posts (and I have no idea how many more I'll write about--I think this could go on forever).

So the #1 thing about motherhood that no one can prepare you for . . . falling in love with your husband/partner all over again. C and I have a wonderful relationship. He really is everything I could ask for in a partner, although I do wish he would learn to put his shoes away! That said, he has been so great with S. Watching the two of them together, I've gotten to know a whole new side of my husband, a side I suspected existed but had no real proof of. He is a wonderful father. When C has S, I know I should be taking advantage of those precious moments to myself to get something done--even if it is just a shower! But I'd rather watch the two of them together. Watching C sing silly songs to S while he is changing a diaper, seeing C rub S's feet on his goatee, and especially watching them sleep together--these are the things that make me smile lately.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Breastfeeding icons

A friend of mine sent me a link to an article on Breastfeeding Icons. Very cool!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Things no one tells childless friends of mothers

My friend, Ms. Reads (who blogs at Arrogant Self-Reliance), has posted several comments in response to my on-going "Things no one tells you about motherhood" posts. This post is in her honor.

As a one-time childless friend to several friends with children, I know the feeling of "I have nothing to contribute" to the conversation on parenting, pregnancy, etc. quite well. A good friend of mine who had children well before I did once told me that I do have opinions and experiences with children; she encouraged me to share those views, to ask questions, and even just to listen, which as a mother of an almost 4-week old I've learned is so, so important. I've posted once about friends who now suddenly seem uninterested in me now that S has arrived. To be fair, this is probably a bit harsh on my part. They are probably just as overwhelmed at the fact that I am a mother as I am. As I posted previously, most of my friends have been wonderful, and I am so appreciative of them.

The thing no one tells childless friends of mothers is that we, the mothers, want them in our lives--we want to talk to them, to have them give us feedback about life beyond babies and motherhood, and to have them in our lives. They still matter to us.

Breastfeeding on planes

C & I will be traveling with S over the holidays, so this article (sent to me by Supadiscomama) is disturbing to me on many, many levels: Woman Kicked off plane for breastfeeding . I still have mixed emotions about nursing my own child for so long, but it is every woman's right to nurse her child for as long as she desires.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Never again. . .

I will never again think to myself: why can't that person talk about anything else except his/her child? I have to admit that I have thought that about people in the past, usually people I don't know very well who assume that I want to know the intimate details of their child's life. I will also admit that I've occasionally thought that about close friends. I now regret thinking that, and over the past few weeks, I've mentally apologized for thinking that a thousand times. I feel like I need to make a more public apology. I now understand how all consuming parenthood is--especially new parenthood. It is impossible for me to have a conversation now without talking about S. I know that at some point I will be able to do that, but right now (and I feel certain for some time to come) whenever anyone asks me how I'm doing, I automatically tell them how S is doing. If he's having a good day, I'm having a good day; if he's having a bad day, I'm having a worse one. I also now understand the need and the desire to talk to someone about him. Luckily I haven't had many days alone with him (that starts next week!), but I have had a few. I know how happy I was when C got home to have someone to talk to--even to tell him how S didn't pee on either one of us today or that I got a shower before 2. So please feel free to tell me all about your children; I'm sure I'll tell you all about mine.

Things no one tells you about motherhood #4

The fourth thing I've been thinking of is both positive and negative. The negative part: friends who don't have children are no longer interested in me. I was somewhat prepared for this as many friends without children began to withdraw during the last months of my pregnancy. That said, it is still upsetting and frustrating, especially since I have managed to maintain several close friendships with friends who do have children prior to having a child myself.

The positive part: my really close friends, those with and without children, have been wonderful. I get a phone call almost every day from someone checking on me. My friends have cooked us meals and even driven over 90 miles to pick family members up at the airport. I knew I had good friends, but I didn't know they were this wonderful. I am thankful to have all of them in my life, and I certainly hope I have been as good to them as they have been to us.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Things no one tells you about motherhood #2 & #3

Here's my second shocking discovery.

Breastfeeding can make you feel like a failure, even if you're successful at it.

To be honest, this one wasn't as shocking as some of the other things I experienced b/c I've done some reading on the politics of breastfeeding (I recommend any articles by Joan Wolf on this subject). I have seen friends struggle to breastfeed, so I knew it wouldn't be easy--at least, from an intellectual perspective. That said, I wasn't prepared for how difficult it was (and still is). Breastfeeding is an overwhelming thing. For the first three weeks, I feel like I've done nothing but breastfeed, and essentially that is all I have done. Even on the days I've managed to get out of the house to go to the grocery store or go to lunch with C, I've had to nurse in the car or in the restaurant. I've been to school twice, both times with S, and both times I spent an hour of what should have only been an hour trip nursing him in my office.

And breastfeeding has been relatively easy for me. S had some initial latch problems which were quickly remedied by a visit to the lactation consultant. But when he screams and can't be soothed by anything, including my breast, I feel like a failure. I weigh him constantly on my bathroom scale (not so reliable, I know), and I agonize over every ounce. I ask myself: did I nurse enough today? did I nurse too much? Every time he coughs or sneezes, I ask myself: did I make him sick? did my milk make him sick? Intellectually I know that yes, I fed him enough, and no, my milk has not made him sick. Emotionally, breastfeeding has rendered me a basket case more than a few times.

Ultimately, I think my expectations were too high rather than other mothers hadn't told the whole truth. Which leads me to #3: no one tells you to lower your expectations.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Things no one tells you about motherhood #1

I'm going to have to write this post in sections, so here is #1. Please keep the previous post in mind--I'm not pulling any punches on these posts, and I'm also not worried about my intrest in boundaries.

1. No one tells you how swollen your labia, vulva, and vagina are after childbirth.

Several friends told me that these areas would be painful and that ice packs were useful and felt wonderful, but I was not prepared for how that part of my body looked! I was totally and completely shocked. After 9 months of pregnancy, I expected my body to feel more like my own after I gave birth. It felt even less like mine than it did in the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Separate Spheres

In the first few weeks of motherhood, I've quickly discovered there is not such thing as separate spheres, at least not in my life. I generally consider myself a fairly private person, this blog aside. I don't share personal things with people I don't consider good friends. In short, I'm very fond of boundaries; that said, once I consider a person a good friend, I have very few boundaries. In the past few weeks, the boundaries I typically value, especially when I'm around colleagues or strangers, have largely disappeared. I've done things I never thought I would do--including almost crying in front of faculty members and breastfeeding in front of faculty members. I also almost told a faculty member whom I'm on a search committee with off. Said faculty member mentioned it was difficult for him to make it to campus for a 9:00 am meeting. FM said this as I had S strapped to my chest, while I was wearing my glasses in an attempt to hide the horrific circles under my eyes. I came close to detailing just how difficult it was for us to make it to the 9:00 am meeting. I refrained.

Privacy has taken on a whole new meaning for C & me since S's arrival. We've both discussed my breasts with people we barely know and with our respective advisors and the heads of our departments. Our friends know more about my breasts and S's bowel movements than I am sure they care to. The public and private aspects of our life have blurred--a change that was so sudden I didn't even notice it, until I found myself baring my breast in front of a faculty member yesterday. Luckily, this faculty member didn't care and even gave me some helpful nursing tips.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Chasing Perfection

I'm still planning my post on what I'm going to refer to as "The Secrets of New Motherhood," but I've been thinking a lot about something else recently--perfection. First, as a good friend recently reminded me, I know I wasn't perfect before becoming a mother, but I have always had very high expectations of myself. As many academics, I am an overachiever, and I naively assumed that I would be able to bounce back from labor and having a new baby in a relatively short amount of time. The truth is, S will be three weeks old tomorrow, and I've only been able to get out of my pjs before noon three times. My sister, who stayed with us the first few days S was home, told me I'd be lucky to get a shower before 3 some days. Well, frankly I've given up on the whole showering in the morning thing! Now, I shower before bed, and I feel brilliant for having figured that one out. Of course, by 3, I want another shower as I'm hot and sweaty from nuring all day, and usually covered in breastmilk--but that is another issue altogether.

My need to be an overachiever made for a few difficult days. I thought I could still do it all, and quite honestly, I couldn't, and I still can't. Being a mother is equally wonderful and exhausting, but motherhood and perfection are not ideas that belong in the same sentence. C and I have talked about this a lot, and we've both come to the conclusion that motherhood is still something that is seen as natural and intuitive. And as a new mother, I can honestly say that it isn't necessarily either of those things. Just because S and I share DNA doesn't mean I automatically know what to do when he cries or fusses or won't sleep. I thought it would. I felt like (and to a certain extent still feel like) I should know how to fix things when something was wrong. But what I'm slowly realizing, after a few sleepless nights, a fair amount of tears, and lots of conversations with a very hands-on husband and father, is S doesn't even know what is wrong with him most of the time. I should expect myself to automatically know either. The reality of new motherhood (and perhaps of motherhood in general) is that it is as hard as it is wonderful. I'm thankful it only took me 3 weeks to figure that one out.

Friday, November 03, 2006


As typing isn't as easy as it once was (not with S attached to the breast), I wanted to post a reminder to myself to blog about some things when I have more time--although I'm beginning to wonder when that will be. First, I want to talk about the things women don't tell other women about labor and child birth, and then I want to write about what I will call the academic/over-achieving woman's overly high expectations of herself after child birth. I'm still mulling these things over, but I hope to be able to write about them soon.

On a different note, we're doing well, despite the lack of sleep. It is amazing how quickly your brain adjusts to only 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night--with 1 or 2 much needed naps throughout the day.