Why You Should Love Your Saggy Postpartum Skin

Nine months ago, I looked like this:

large and not in charge

large and not in charge

No, that’s not last years Halloween costume, where I stuck a beach ball under an assless hospital gown and pretending to be incubating quintuplets. That’s what I looked like when I was admitted to the hospital for induction, 41 and a half weeks pregnant, right before fifty hours of labor.

I gained about 60 pounds during my pregnancy, much to the horror of the medical professionals around me. A sonogram technician once told me based on my appearance alone that she was sure I had gestational diabetes (I didn’t). In my third trimester, my midwives advised me to stop eating carbs (which I responded to with hearty laughter and then ate a pizza). I was a giant pregnant lady and I gave birth to a giant baby.

Mostly, the weight has slowly come off, and without rigorous effort on my part. I find formal exercise remarkably unfun, and am also not going to not eat three donuts last Saturday when someone brings donuts to your house. I do eat a pretty healthy vegetarian diet, and I do take walks with Lucy because it puts her to sleep. I’m grateful to be back in a place where I can fit into my old clothes and not have to buy a bunch of new ones.

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The thing about losing weight postpartum is that it’s not like things just go back to where they were before. After a couple months of breastfeeding, my triple F boobs that could have served as flotation devices in a turbulent river completely deflated, morphing into a pair of 3 day old flapjacks. My butt got bigger (which actually, I’m fine with).

is that a boob fold?

is that a boob fold?

My stomach, never my crowning physical glory, droops sadly around the sides of my pants like a ziplock bag full of vanilla pudding. A fold of skin dangles above my bellybutton, presumably protecting it from linty intruders.

hey there

hey there

Despite not being a contender for this years’ Victoria Secret catalogue, I’ve come to appreciate my postpartum body, and feel more comfortable in my skin than I did even pre-pregnancy. This weird, lumpy body grew a tiny, autonomous person, someone who laughs, eats pieces of leaves off the floor, and squats when she farts. That’s a hell of a miracle.

Here’s why you should embrace your new, postpartum skin, too:

1. Winter is coming. And if you believe the not-at-all sensationalist media, it’s going to be a cold one. Save money on outerwear by wearing your layers underneath your skin!

2. Unconventional Storage. Use the folds to your advantage, by tucking away treats and toys for later. You never know when your baby will scream inexplicably and need to be bribed with food (it’s when you’re driving, working, or sleeping).

for example, these teething biscuits, which are not organic

for example, these teething biscuits, which are not organic

3. Your baby needs something to hold on to during airplane turbulence. Or breastfeeding, screaming jags, or when you become your baby’s personal climbing gym. Who knew the term “love handles” was literally a thing?

4. The 90’s are in. Just in case you still consider yourself to be above sweatsuits (I’m not), try on this fantastic current trend. Adopting a 90’s trend will grant you plenty of coverage for your midsection, and has the added bonus of making you look like an insane person who should not be approached. I once wore a side ponytail to Trader Joe’s and noticed a 67% decline in other customers asking my daughter “how old he was.”

via Popsugar

via Popsugar

5. You can’t be more The Best than you already are. Seriously. You made someone. And now you feed it, dress it, love it, and change it’s horrific diapers. There is nothing beyond “The Best,” which is what you already are.

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More on Texas

It’s hard to believe we were in Texas just a few weeks ago. Lu and I flew there after visiting California to spend a few days with my friend Kate and her family.

Having spent my entire life living in New York, the most astonishing thing about Texas was the wide openness of it; I’d never seen so much space between things. That goes for the housing developments, highway connections, and grocery store aisles. Everything is separated from everything else by flat expanses of dirt or slices of cobalt sky.

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We got there in the evening, exhausted but wired from another full day of complimentary diet cokes (me), and licking decrepit and polio-harboring airplane safety manuals (Lucy). I teared up when I saw them walk towards us at baggage claim; Kate in her hippie skirt with scraggly legs, exuding comfort, always embodying the tenderness of a kid with a permanently skinned knee. Her beautiful daughter wore a princess dress. She held Lu’s hand as we navigated to their car.

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That night I was spent. Lu wailed, refusing to sleep. I paced desperately, finally handing her off. Kate took her outside, wove through the housing development singing to her, the thick charcoal of a nowhere Texas night pierced through by front porch halogens. She wanted to take care of both of us, and I let her.

Kate is a force. I both admire and fear her intensity, and honestly believe she can do anything. We lived together a long time ago, but the wind blew us in different directions (or rather, the wind didn’t blow me at all- I stayed put, while she lived in a glorified chicken coop in Guatemala and delivered babies or on a Native American reservation in New Mexico where the only wifi in town was at a fried chicken joint).The truest thing I can say about her is that she tends toward the least obvious, most resistant path from A to B; nothing with her has ever been easy. But in that space she thrives, and it fuels a staggering wealth of creativity.

On day two of Texas, we decided to make the hour-long drive to Dallas and the Texas State Fair, which, in addition to food offerings designed to prompt cardiac arrest, promised a life-sized diorama made from thousands of pounds of real butter. Of course, we couldn’t just go to the fair, because this was Kate. First we had to research and print coupons, put the ten cans of corn she had in her house in a bag, and drive to the store for more cans of corn. Kate had read that tickets only cost five bucks if you brought enough canned corn.

State fair parking consisted of a series of private lots, which got cheaper as you got farther from the fairs entrance. We chose the farthest possible lot, underneath the George H. W. Bush highway. Kate pulled in, directed by a parking attendant, and hopped out to let her husband back the car into the designated spot.

“So you’re the parking expert?” I quipped at Mike, as he reversed the car gently into both his wife and the parking attendant, squishing their legs against the front of another car. Kate let out a scream. (Isn’t there an old dad joke about running your wife over?)

Everyone was fine, but the litigious parking attendant made a big show of doubling over and limping around like she’d been bitten during a zombie apocalypse. Kate yelled at Mike, I sat in the car with the kids, ambulances came, then a firetruck, then a couple of squad cars. Mike stared at the dirt, Kate crossed her arms, the parker dragged a leg around, the cops assessed, and eventually we were free to go. We got ourselves together, got our corn together, and waded through the Texas heat toward the fair.

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I can’t say I’ve ever been more confused by an event. There was a giant warehouse containing some kind of car show, except the cars were all unimpressive, practical mom cars. There was another warehouse filled with sample beds you could lie on to test the mattresses, presumably so you could buy one, or maybe you just liked laying on a sweaty, lightly dirt-caked pad. There were guys selling $30 shoe polish, who tricked me into getting my sneakers rubbed. There was a long wall of 5 inch shelves, stuffed from floor to ceiling with blue ribbon canned goods, which from far away looked like a very disconcerting medical experiment.

Of course, there was food, all of which was deep fried: oreos, bacon, lobster tail, cake, pepperoni pizza, jumbalaya (how do you fry that?), candy bars, peanut butter sandwiches, pickles, chicken, butter. Everyone in Texas drinks Dr. Pepper (so I did).

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We got back to Kate’s that night without further incident, with stomach aches, worn and dusty. The next day, my last one there, we did little more than build towers out of giant pink legos and knock them down, eat macaroni and cheese and tomatoes.

Mid-morning we went for a long walk through the development. Kate’s daughter rode her bike and collected acorns. I pushed Lu’s stroller, and Kate told me about her life there.

I still can’t quite understand how an artsy, liberal, former high school state champion slam poet moves to the middle of cattle country and thrives, not survives. She’s always been an expert at showing up somewhere, digging her feet into the dirt, and saying, “This is where I am now, and you can’t move me.”

She told me that she chooses to be happy, to try and let the bad stuff wash over her. She surrounds herself with strong women who love and support her (even if they’re also card-carrying NRA members, at least they’ve got her back, right?). She practices being present for her life.

I can’t tell you how far she’s come. It might take her five hours, twelve cans of corn, getting hit with a car by her husband, and a long walk through a very long line of mattresses to get to the top of the ferris wheel, but when she gets up there, she knows how to take in the view.

Lu and I left early the next morning. I forgot to take a photo of the sign a mile past the edge of her development:

via http://gentlepurespace.com/blog/archives/typography-photography-3

image via gentlepurespace.com

The F Word (Also, Many Uses of the Word “Horse”)

What’s worth doing, even if I fail?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. If I’m feeling pessimistic, I can trace the years of my life from age 5 to 29 along a craggy line on a depressed graph of little failures.

In elementary school, my best friend was a mouth breather, and my nickname was cross-eyed bucktooth beaver (does that need more hyphens?). At summer camp, Sasha deigned to call me over and tell me that she was “going out” with Ben and I said, “Cool, where?,” which was NOT cool. My freshman year of high school, I got straight D’s. At NYU, I majored in drinking. I was a well-meaning but muddled friend; once (wasted) I tried to set my friend Sarah up with a homeless person and their shopping cart outside of Mars Bar. After college, I spent two years working at Urban Outfitters (they fired me). I’ll stop there.

The common thread through all these years, the upward trend opposing the downward spiral on my theoretical graph, is fear. I was afraid of being laughed at, afraid of not knowing as much as other people, afraid I wasn’t good or cool or smart. I let that fear dictate how I lived; I mostly stopped trying to be anything other than numb. I stuck to the low road.

My main anesthetics were liquor and men. At bars, I could quickly disappear into a cup, or the possibility that the guy in the corner with the emo haircut is smarter than he looks (and wants nothing more than to whisk me away from my own head and into a Paul Rudd movie).

I don’t rely on those vices anymore, but changing those behaviors didn’t change the audio loop clanging in my head: BE AFRAID. Of strangers, earthquakes, toxic shock syndrome, people not liking me, global warming, lung cancer, saying the wrong thing, being the wrong kind of mother. Give me any topic at all, and I can tell you the most self-destructive way to worry about it. I am very good at being bad at this.

It’s not that I stopped being scared the last few years, but that I stopped letting that fear boss me around. I came to realize that I could be afraid and still do things. I could brave the potential failure inevitably looming darkly in the distance. Sometimes it catches you, and you fall down. Other times, you cruise right by it, on your way to some real thing. Either way, you just move on.

As I got older, my world got bigger. I had nothing, and then eventually had a person I loved, a home, a baby, now a business. The cliche is true: the more shit you have, the more you have to lose. The potential failures get wider, deeper, they sting more. They ride in on an evil horse (no offense to horse people) and tell you not to dream too big, that the horse can shatter anything with its giant failure horse hammer.

The answer to the question about what’s worth doing despite failing is: everything. I want to go to California even though I read that New Yorker article about the impending doom of the next crushing earthquake. I want to speak up even though I might say something deeply uncool. I want to make art even if other people think it’s shitty. I want to write even if no one ever reads it. I want to sit my ass down in the world, own my spot, look fear in the face and say, “Oops, I didn’t recognize you. Is that a new horse?”

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image via tammierokz.deviantart.com

Flying on a Plane with an Infant: It’s Not That Fun

Let’s get this out of the way first: there is no way not to panic about flying on a plane with a baby for the first time, unless you are a Buddhist monk or so filthy rich that you have eight nannies tending to her tiny highness while you sit in first class and get bombed on morning bourbons. I spent the weeks before my five flights with Lucy (FIVE) in an increasing state of sheer terror.

I knew, logically, that everything would be fine. The worst that could happen was she’d annoy passengers by bleating like a tyrannical, satanic goat for three straight hours, and then I’d never see those people again. Telling myself that offered little comfort; logic was eclipsed by emotionally-provoked certainty that nothing would ever be okay again ever.

But of course, everything was totally fine. Here are my tips:

1. Don’t spend a lot of money on new toys. Do download a bunch of videos.

does not care

does not care

Every advice post I read before I left said to buy Lu a bunch of new toys for the plane, which would magically entertain her for dozens of in-flight hours. I would estimate that each new toy I bought entertained her for an extra 14 seconds. Skip the expense and save your money for gallons of life-sustaining airport coffee.

More helpful than new toys: we maxed out the memory on an old iPad with free Baby Einstein videos downloaded from YouTube. Be sure to give the double stink eye to anyone who gives you a disapproving glance because you’re letting a tiny angel wither into zombie dust due to five hours of screen time. Screen time saves lives (yours).

2. Once you are seated on the plane, make sure that all of your personal (for you) items are readily accessible. Your baby may pass out at any time, and once she does, you will not be able to move.

whatever you do, do not wake this thing

whatever you do, do not wake this thing

I brought two books with me on this trip, which was unbelievably ambitious. When a 20 pound chicken nugget is sleeping on your lap, do not attempt to move your arms for a page turn! Think of yourself as a T-rex: you have two disproportionate hand-claws you can sort of use to poke or drop things, and that’s it.

A better bet: download a bunch of music or podcasts to your phone and have headphones out and ready.

3. Bring extra clothes. For both of you.

was it something i ate?

was it something i ate?

Since you asked, I will divulge to you that Lucy has had some issues in the past with constipation. At one point, we tried everything to help her: water, prune juice, special formula, massage, and so on. As it turns out, the secret to getting her to empty her bowels with the force of a royal army is: put her on a plane.

The least awful way to change a baby in a teeny tiny airplane bathroom is by sitting down on the toilet (lid on) and changing them on your lap. However, I would not recommend this during jolting turbulence (that was fun) or when your baby has shit herself up to her ears (even more fun). Use the changing table. Also, bring a change of clothes for both of you to the bathroom, just to be on the safe side. I had to carry my mostly nude baby down the entire length of the plane and dress her in dirty pajamas at my seat.

4. The best airplane game is “contract an exotic disease game”.

i taste hints of biscoff cookie and polio

i taste hints of biscoff cookie and polio

When all else failed, Lucy’s number one favorite method of in-flight entertainment was pulling all of the ancient safety manuals, barf bags, and Sky Magazines out of the seat pouch in front of her and alternately throwing them on the floor or licking them. I tried SO HARD not to let her put all of these disgusting things in her mouth, until I gave up and let her put all of these disgusting things in her mouth. What is wrong with babies?

5. If you’re alone, ask the stewardesses for help.

You will need someone to hold the baby while you fold up the stroller at gate check or pee for the 40th time (see above gallon of airport coffee). I found the stewardesses to be mostly willing to hold a cute baby while mom frantically does a thing and tries not to lose her shit. No need to be more of a hero than you already are; take advantage of all available uniformed strangers.

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see that arm next to lu? that belongs to a 22 year old male who no longer wants to have children of his own.

—–

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it’s going to be great, but it’s definitely way less bad than you think it will be. The worrying is the worst part.

And who knows, maybe you gave birth to one of those unicorns that just sleeps the entire flight. If so, please let me know when your baby is available to give my baby lessons.

What I Learned From Three Amazing Moms in Ten Very Long Days Across the USA

Last week, at 2:30 in the morning, I got up out of bed, packed a taxi up with an enormous suitcase, stroller, backpack, diaper bag, carseat, and a seven month old and left home for our first of five flights to four states in ten days.

Yes, I am fucking crazy.

I need a 10-year-long nap

I need a 10-year-long nap

I also now feel capable of doing basically anything, but not without the simultaneous experience of a month-long low-level panic attack and raging insomnia. I’ll accept the tradeoff, because even though I cried in the airport on the way to baggage claim after the last plane touched down through bad weather, I feel brave as hell.

There were a few reasons why I booked this trip four months ago, mainly to launch my very first business. I expected a crazy adventure, the excitement of sharing our new project with the world, the exhaustion, and the relief of home. I’m surprised, however, by the thing I keep thinking back on, the meatiest conclusion: I feel like I just returned from a corny but insightful Goldilocks-style pilgrimage to see how other mothers raise their babies, and how each of these styles fit into my own perception of motherhood.

Lu and I spent time with three other mothers on our trip. Here’s what we learned.

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