Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning


April 2008


I was talking to a friend today, a co-worker, and we tossed around two questions. 

What do you NEED to be happy?

How do you define success?

Pretty interesting to really think about these things.  I am particularly interested in the first one.  It’s so easy to live life for the next thing, the next step, etc.  But if you can get comfortable that you are OK with what you have, what a blessing that is.

April 30th, 2008

Back in the saddle, again. 

Maternity Leave

I don’t really know how to begin writing about maternity leave.  It ends now.  Tomorrow is my first day back at work.  So let me start simply, with just the facts:

Pregnant, and months of anticipation; give birth; about 12 weeks off to recover and learn to be a parent; go back to work.

And now, the sub-text.  Tomorrow I go back to work.  People say things like "I hope it will not be too difficult"; "Are you OK?"; "Nice to have you back."  And the answers are, it will be manageable, yes I am OK, and thanks, it’s nice to be back.

But wow, what a period of time this has been.  It’s hard to know where to start if you want to reflect on this time off called maternity leave.  It’s not a vacation, nor a sabbatical.  It’s not easy but it was not as hard as I had anticipated (the having a baby and learning to take care of her, that is).  I did not know what to expect and yes, it took me by surprise. 

There were times of loneliness.  I was at home with a being that could not talk.  None of my friends were at home.  I talked to a being that could not talk.  For weeks.

There were times of guilt…the baby did, after all, sleep.  During those times, what did I do?  Hello, Oprah.  I never slept in (that was not possible), I rarely napped (not my thing) but I did spend a lot of time in very comfortable clothes (I would not go so far as PJ’s all day but it would have been possible).  I had been warned that it would be so bad I would not be able to find time for a shower or even to brush my teeth.  That did not happen.  I managed to take care of myself and then some, thank you very much.  I had no intention of losing myself completely, and if that meant she cried for a few minutes, well, so be it.  I figured letting her cry and pulling myself together, was better than no tears from her while I felt like a disheveled disaster who could not manage a shower. 

There’s more.  I had this funny realization one day that from now on, and for at least the next 15 years, yes YEARS, we would need a sitter anytime we wanted to go out on our own.  That is a change.  OK, so I can swallow that, but that is WAY different. 

And then we found a nanny.  I remember the first time we had her stay and babysit one night.  We went out for dinner. It was the first time the Big H and I had been out in weeks.  And it was glorious.  It was sushi and only two hours and it was heaven.

I could not and did not anticipate the feelings associated with being a parent.  I heard someone say that having a child is like walking around for the rest of your life with your heart outside.  And that is about right.  It’s like getting hit by a train in a really great way.  We look at her sometimes and just stare.  I love my friends, family and husband but can honestly say, some of my most memorable and engaging conversations ever are with her now.  And she cannot talk.  That is saying something.

I remember the first time I took her out on my own.  I caught a glimpse of myself with the stroller and freaked out.  That was me.  In the window.  With the stroller.  It was a Thursday and I was not at work.  I was wearing jeans on a Thursday, mid-day, walking around with my new baby.  As I was out with her, she started to cry.  And she cried loudly.  And I had to keep going.  I was in the drugstore with the crying baby and had to take a deep breath.  I was THAT LADY with the screaming baby.  And that was OK.

And none of this makes sense.  I can feel myself rambling.  But I am going back to work tomorrow.  This time has passed and I need to reflect on it.  And so here I am, reflecting.  Trying to pull these thoughts together in a neat package with a thesis is hopeless.  So I ramble.

And then there was the change from feeling like she was totally dependent on me, to liberation.  I could be with her, and then leave her with the trusted nanny, and know she would be OK.  This did not happen overnight.  She refused a bottle, and I thought she would starve.  Yes, starve.  The fear of starving your child is not easily overcome.  But one day after hiring the Trusted Nanny, I left the house.  Left her with the Trusted Nanny.  And 20 minutes later, said nanny called me and said "She ate three ounces.  Don’t worry."  At this moment I burst into tears.  I was in a restaurant a block away fearing my child would starve, and then learned she would be OK.  I was thrilled and sad.  Thrilled I knew she would eat.  Sad she did not totally need me.  I was not immune to the guilt this caused…"But shouldn’t I WANT to be attached like that?  What does that say about me that I feel trapped by this need?". 

I have since gotten over that.  I realized I am a better parent when I am confident these duties can be shared.  I don’t think this makes me a bad parent.

The interesting thing is, I did not realize how scared and clueless I was until now.  Now I am much more confident with her.  If maternity leave started now, I would do it differently because I can.  I did not realize then how lacking in confidence I was until now when I actually feel more confident.  I wonder if this phenomenon will continue as she gets older.

But it’s funny.  It’s only been three months, and I am much more confident, and am OK leaving her with the Nanny while I go do something else…but I still miss her even now as she sleeps in the next room.

I am a nostalgic, sensitive, feeling person, but damn it, I never thought I would be this sappy.  I am now embracing my inner sap.  I am, after all, sappy.  It could be worse.

And now it’s time to learn to be a Working Mother.  I have read about this experience before.  I have heard women talk about it.  And here I go.  I am at the top of the water slide called "Working Mother"…you know, the kind where you can see the first bit but not much thereafter, and you pray there is a cool welcoming pool at the other end.  I am thankful I have a great job. If I didn’t, I would be miserable. 

I am now bittersweet.  I am sad.  I am moving to the next chapter, but yes, I am sad.  First Child Maternity Leave is a time of unexplainable emotions, and therefore, rambling blog posts with snippets of thoughts and reflections.  I wish I could go back to many of the moments I had.  It went too fast.  She is already in size 2 diapers and though this is trivial, it is yet another example of time flying.  The only answer to any of this, the somewhat melancholy piece of having a child, reflecting on the early days and going back to "real life" is the lesson that applies to so many things…to Be Here Now.  Focus on the immediate and relish every bit of it. 

Life Lessons and Cooking and Eating

Two of my great passions are cooking and eating.  I started really cooking in business school and have since tried many many recipes, bought many cookbooks, and fed lots of friends.  Cooking is more than just a meal for me, it’s therapy, creativity and pleasure.  I got to thinking about this the other day and realized, it’s even more than that.  If I were a teacher, I might teach other life lessons through cooking and eating.  Enough with learning life lessons the hard way, learn a few the tasty way!  Here are some examples:

  • The beauty of simplicity – roast a chicken.  Roasting a chicken can be a complicated affair, but I find the best way is to pop a washed and dried, salt and peppered chicken into a 400 degree oven for about an hour and let it go.  No need to mess with it, no basting.  Simply delicious.
  • Things do not need to be expensive to be great – make potato and leak soup
  • But luxury has its place – enjoy a glass of champagne and a blini with caviar
  • Even things that don’t appear great have potential if you just give them a little TLC – roast cauliflower tossed in olive oil, salt and peppered, at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Prepare to be excited about cauliflower.
  • Witness patience as a virtue – make risotto.
  • Understand that some things take care of themselves and we don’t need to control everything – tackle an Osso Bucco recipe.  Do very little, let it work it’s magic and enjoy the fruits of your lack of labor.
  • Less is more – eat a tomato or ear of corn in season
  • Good things come in small packages – eat a fresh raw oyster
  • Attention to detail – bake just about anything.  Baking requires exact measurements to be successful.
  • Creativity – unlike baking, cooking requires that you taste and test and sometimes come up with substitute ingredients. 
  • Appreciate what you have  – make pasta puttanesca…most of the ingredients should already be in your pantry (at least mine)
  • Flexibility and respect – like Creativity, cook anything.  Even if you have made a recipe a hundred times, you need to be aware that every ingredient is unique, as is every oven and every burner. 
  • Be a team player, but be clear about roles and responsibilities – cook with your spouse.  My husband loves to cook just as I do, but we have very different approaches.  We work well in the kitchen together because we have learned that one of us needs to be the stated Chef, and the other, the Sous Chef.  Clearly stated roles and objectives are key.
  • Be in the now – cook pasta.  Overcooked pasta is disgusting.
  • Everything is better with bacon – what a fun lesson!  Add bacon to just about anything and learn this – add it to salad, a sandwich, on top of a meatloaf, your Saturday morning french toast, even chocolate (weird but true).
  • Don’t take everything so seriously – if all else fails (like your recipe), order pizza and open a bottle of wine.  Your family or guests will still be happy.

The Sounds of Brooklyn

Now that I am a Brooklyn snob (GO 718!), I shall dis most things Manhattan.  For the record, I used to hate people like me.  I would come to Brooklyn for some reason (get dragged over here for a party in someone’s backyard…whatever.  Who needs the bugs.) and hate every second of it, but I have changed. I have been reformed.

To this point, I want to spend a moment on the sounds of Brooklyn.  Over here in Big Sky Country (we have low buildings so you can actually enjoy that thing called SKY), the sounds on any given weekend day are telling.  We open our back doors and hear things like lawn mowers and drills.  People are always fixing up their homes so drill sounds are like bees on the trees.  And you may hear neighbors talking to one another.  Yes, to each other!  It’s fabulous.  People talk to one another, they say hello.  They ask how you are.  And there is also what you don’t hear.  I still see ambulances and cop cars etc.  But I rarely hear them.  They don’t run their sirens up our street for some reason.  It’s great. 

And the smells of Brooklyn, that is a whole chapter, but think grills and freshly mowed lawns, and in the winter, wood burning fireplaces.  It’s like the suburbs but not.  No, McHattan friends, we are a short three subway stops away from the Island. 

I don’t want to rub it in, but as someone who was anti-Brooklyn, perhaps this is my way of saying, I was wrong.  I will eat crow. 

And as a Brooklynite, I will take that crow and toss it on the grill…outdoors in the backyard…and oh yes, if you are around, knock on the door, perhaps we will be having a stoop sale that day…we would love to have you.  Will you take fresh made lemonade with that? 

The Pope Might Chuckle

Heard on the street today:

"You know, if the Pope really believed in God, he would not need all that security!"

The Moment of Truth

And there she is in the swing, sound asleep. 

Do I move her?  She needs to sleep in her crib. What if I wake her.  She could be up for hours.

There is no alternative!  She cannot sleep in the swing.  It’s not safe.  How did she fall asleep there in the first place?

It just happened.  Time passed and I did not look at the clock.  Besides, it’s natural to fall asleep while being rocked.

But a bad habit.

It’s not a habit.  She has gone down several of the past few nights right in her crib – partly AWAKE, I might add.  She got herself to sleep in the crib.

So move her.  It should be fine.

<Three minute interlude>

And she is down in the crib.  Her eyes did not even open.  I closed the door, grabbed the monitor, and now we pray. 

Dear God, please let her keep sleeping for a while.  Perhaps this can be the night she sleeps through the night? 

One might be tempted to think this dialog happened between me and, oh I don’t know, someone ELSE.  But no, just me, talking to myself about moving my baby 20 feet. 

I had no idea I would think like this.  No clue.

Chicks on Sale?

I recently went to see The Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum.  For those of you that know me, it’s no secret that I consider myself a feminist (and even more so now as a mother…I feel barraged every time I see an consumer products ad or a parenting magazine which are nearly ALL directed towards mommy, mommy, mommy…daddy anyone?).  Anyway, the exhibit is, in my view, a must see.  Women, at their own table, ready to have a ridiculously engaging conversation.  I think my personal favorite might be the seat for the Primordial Goddess.  What a phrase, Primordial Goddess.  Perhaps that is what I will be this year for Halloween.

In any event, as I continued my journey through the Museum, I was a little confused when I hit the Museum Shop.  Buried in the back behind books on New York City and Walking Tours of Brooklyn (the Siberia of the Shop) was a pile of t-shirts referencing feminism.  There was a sign.  The sign read "Global Feminist t-shirts 50% Off".

50% off?  The feminist t-shirts are on sale?  Half off?  Not even a mere 15% but HALF? 

So what to make of that, progress or a step back?  I am unsure.  What do you make of it?

So Big!

People said time would fly.

And now, at barely more than two months old, she has a whole pile of clothes that no longer fit her.  She is too big (arms spread wide "SO big!") for so many things that fit only a few days ago.  How quickly they grow.  Exponentially at this age. 

Taking stock.  It’s going awfully fast.  As Tolle would say, "Be HERE now."

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