Travel with a baby: cloth diapers

There are basically three scenarios when it comes to cloth diapers and travel: one, you bring all/most of your cloth diapers; two, you shoot for half and half with cloth and disposables; three, you say eff it, buy some disposables, and enjoy the vacation from washing diapers.  Only you can decide which works best for you, but we’ve done all three and this is my experience:

Pro of disposables:  more suitcase room on your return trip!

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International travel with a baby, seat struggles

Sometime in the middle of last year, seeing a direct flight at an excellent price, I bought two tickets for the family to go visit our friends and relatives in Moscow for three and a half weeks.  As I’ve been scouring the internet looking for advice, I’ve decided to create a series contributing my experience and observations to the pool.  Some of the advice I’ve found doesn’t apply at all to our situation.

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Official (and hungry) U.S. citizen

The first thing you might have realized that’s wrong is that I bought two tickets, when our family has three people.  But that’s OK, I thought!  We’ll save money because babies under two can be on your lap, oh, and Air France even offers bassinets!  No problem!  Except it turns out that the bassinets are meant for some kind of freakishly small babies.  Baby Dictator had outgrown them by the time he was six months old.  And I’m not even going to dignify the “advice” that you should just hold off on all travel the first 3-6 years with a response.

Well, okay, I think to myself, I’ll just see if I can reserve an aisle and window seat, reducing the chance of someone sitting between us and giving us a little extra space.


No, you can’t.  If you’re traveling with an infant, you are not allowed to pre-select your seats*, the Air France website tells me.  Great.  It costs between 30 and 60 Euros per seat, per flight leg to upgrade to whatever program they have that allows you to select better seats.  That’s a cost of $166-333 per direction.  I decide this isn’t worth it.


Then I think to myself, well, maybe I can just reserve one of the bassinets and not use it, which will get us bulkhead seats with extra legroom and at least some good floor space for the baby to nap.  As I’m asking about this, blatantly lying about Baby M’s size (required info to reserve the bassinets), I’m informed that if it turns out my baby is bigger than the size limits (and he is, by a lot), then they will actually move you to to different seats. I can only assume this is for liability purposes, but it’s hard not to believe there’s some kind of conspiracy against me.



Fine, becoming a bit frantic, maybe I’ll just suck it up and pay the cost of an extra seat for the baby, stupidly thinking there might be a kind of discount offered.  Nope! The new ticket is the same price that the Mr. and I paid for TWO seats! Foiled again.



The one piece of good news I managed to glean from my two conversations with airline “representatives” (they actually are operators for THREE airlines) is that there are quite a few open seats on these flights, so if all else fails, we should be able to have some extra space around us. And now that I’ve spent the last two hours reading blogs and forums full of advice and list-making, I am exhausted.






*I assume this varies by carrier, but it’s good to be prepared for this scenario

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One and done

Somehow I have a hard time closing the gap between thinking about blog posts and actually writing/posting them.  I make no excuses, I’m just lazy.  I technically have the time and opportunity.  But the fact of owning a baby is exhausting; mostly, any free time is spent zoning out whilst marathoning various Netflix crime dramas.  

But today I felt slightly inspired.  I somehow ended up on the mailing list of a site called Scary Mommy.  I don’t really understand how this happened, but I actually find a lot of the posts to be interesting and realistic, and occasionally humorous.  It has a little less of the sanctimonious “mommy wars” that most of the baby sites are polluted with (if you avoid the comments, that is.  Always avoid reader comments).  One that I read today struck a chord with me, entitled I Don’t Like Being a Mother.

First things first: this is difficult to admit.  Especially if you’ve (as she clearly has) made the commitment to stay a mother/involved.  I watched a special on TV last year that featured several untraditional moms who had left their husbands and children due to exactly this feeling.  I have personal experience with this, as my mom did something very similar by divorcing my dad and moving out when I was two years old.  An important thing to note here is that she did NOT abandon me, she stayed very much involved in my life and I have a close relationship with her.  I love her and don’t resent her for the decision she had to make for her sanity.  Something similar in all these cases was that there was involved and financially-stable fathers who didn’t mind shouldering this burden.*  

The truth is that I feel something akin to this.  By no means the same (after all, I’ve only got 11 months of experience); I don’t fantasize about my pre-baby life or what could have been, I don’t regret having Baby M and, while he might have been a surprise, we were planning to have children at some point.  However, compared to all the women who have been waiting their whole lives to be mothers, who want more children (more than… 0-1), whose lives have been given meaning (ick) via motherhood, who cherish every moment with their babies (I’m typing this as the baby pulls everything out of the recycling bin that he can reach and my husband dozes on the living room floor), exclusively talk about them, meticulously plan first birthday parties that won’t be remembered, who cry when they cry (that’s a thing, apparently), etc., there’s definitely the realization that I don’t fit in.  The best advice I can give is to not spend too much time communicating with/reading about these kinds of people, and just focus on the things you’re interested in instead and the light at the end of the tunnel.  And also to talk to a professional if you really can’t let go of these thoughts… just to have a healthy outlet for it.

Bullshit “advice” aside, the truth is that I’m incredibly lucky.  We don’t have financial worries, I’m married to someone that I get along with well, who is an involved and patient father, allows me to go to school so that I’ll be able to work in the future.  All of these factors allow me to enjoy being a mother.  I could imagine a situation where it’s me writing that post, even if it’s not the way I feel now.  

 

*yes, children are a burden

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Doing… things

Not at home!

Not at home!

I have a confession to make: I haven’t read a (non-accounting) book since I was pregnant. A minimum of 8 months ago. It was a fantastic, albeit slightly outdated, book on the healthcare system in America: Flatlined: Resuscitating American Medicine by Dr. Guy Clifton. It paints a very thorough picture of why we have the problems we have, what the myriad problems are, and examples of solutions, both theoretical and those already in practice.  Sadly, the book is a bit outdated as it was published in 2008, before the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed (which, to be certain, did not solve a lot of the problems we’re faced with, primarily high costs, but, I will maintain that, even despite the massive problems with the roll-out, it was a step that needed to be taken eventually, and that no transition would’ve gone smoothly).  I did buy a bunch of books at a Goodwill several months ago, hoping it would inspire me to start reading again.  So far, not much luck.

But anyway, that’s a bit off topic.  The bigger point I’m trying to (not so elegantly) arrive at is that it’s pretty much impossible to relax at home.  This was a fact of parenthood I was unprepared for (the baby woke up crying as I was typing the last sentence, like he knew), that seems somehow deeply profound (due to my unpreparedness, most likely), and one that I am desperately hoping diminishes as baby M gets older.  It’s difficult to relax away from home, as well, but as much as I enjoy getting out and doing things, I am also quite lazy.  This puts me in a tricky situation– leaving the house takes a lot of preparation (ew!) and has an expiration date (tired/hungry baby), but staying home gets boring.

Paper bags: a typical lunch for Baby Dictator

Paper bags: a typical lunch for Baby Dictator

So what I’m finding is that it’s really important to force regular outings.  We go on long walks down by a lake near our house a couple of times a week and we try, about once a week, to go do something a little different.  Whether it’s a hike or something touristy in San Diego, it’s refreshing to show the Mr. a new place and break up the routine a bit.

Mere minutes after buying the baby backpack

Mere minutes after buying the baby backpack (there’s a bit of a learning curve)

A fellow blogger recently wrote a pretty reasonable pre-baby bucket list post, and I think it’s a great thing to do so you actually get around to things you want to do, even if babies aren’t in the plan.  While life doesn’t stop after having one, it does take a little lot more oomph to get around to things.  I’m also a strong believer in lists as catalysts, so even my baby-ed friends (and myself) can benefit from this.

 

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THANKSGIVING*

…when you have a baby, nowhere to go, no guests to entertain, little motivation, and a Russian husband who hates all traditional Thanksgiving foods other than turkey.

Too much for one baby, probably

Too much for one baby, probably

If any of the above sound familiar, maybe this can help you:

1. Decide if you’re going to do anything.  This is an important step, because you can save yourself a lot of work by saying “screw it” and pretending it’s not a holiday at all (you’ll have to avoid the TV/internet and/or be in an un-thankful country to make it very far in this fantasy).  Maybe you are my friend Jessica and you hate Thanksgiving and your husband left to be with his family for Thanksgiving/(C)Hanukkah so you’re decide to just watch Christmas movies alone.  Great!  You can stop here.

2. Ok, you decided you were going to do something after all.  If you hate cooking, definitely don’t cook.  My first instinct was to find a fancy buffet (usually around $70/plate) and go do some holiday face stuffing.  Some of them provide free champagne! (and other beverages)  Unfortunately, my husband has a somewhat restrictive diet, so I decided a buffet with him could be a complete (and expensive) disappointment.  Also, it’s best to avoid situations of leaving the house with the baby. We do it, obviously, but with $140 on the line, not worth it.

3. SO, you’ve decided you’re going to do something  and you aren’t leaving the house.  You have limited options. Loads of stores and restaurants have complete Thanksgiving meals; again, if you hate cooking, do this.  But if you don’t, it isn’t actually that hard to slop together a respectable Thanksgiving meal.  This is what I did: Continue reading

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Breastfeeding sucks.

Yeah, I said it.  I hate breastfeeding and I hate smug lactivists.  People wax poetic about how wonderful and beautiful and natural it is and I won’t even go into that.  There are numerous short-term benefits and some long-term ones for mama, but not so many for the babe*.  Even though I haven’t (and probably won’t) give formula to baby M, I definitely don’t view it as rat poison and think moms/parents need to make the choices best suited for them. That said, it’s free and that’s one of the few things I love.  But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies:

  • It’s exhausting. This is my biggest issue with it.  I produce roughly 800 calories worth of breast milk every day. TMI? Whatever. That’s a lot of energy!
  • That amount of caloric need also means I’m constantly starving.  I strongly believe that pregnancy and nursing are NOT times to worry about your weight or how your body looks but, let’s face it, for someone as vain as me, it’s still hard, and it’s still important to me to maintain healthy eating habits.
  • Aside from the physical demand, nursing an infant means you’re constantly releasing oxytocin (aka the “love hormone”) which tends to make one quite… sleepy.  As if having an infant who sleeps questionably at night (and never, ever as much as you want them to, regardless of how much they actually sleep) isn’t enough.
  • It’s hard.  Breastfeeding is hard. And that’s another reason I hate it.  Misha latched on the instant I put him on the breast when he was born, but after a few weeks he started to flat-out refuse to nurse**.  I had to start pumping so he’d eat (also, for our sanity so that my dad could take him in the mornings and let us get a few hours of rest, since he ate every 2 hours or so) and it was hard, at first.  It was hard for me psychologically, feeling like I was somehow inadequate at feeding my own baby.  It’s supposed to be natural!  It sounds ridiculous now, but it’s a hard thing to deal with.
  • Pumping is a whole other beast.  There are actually women who never nurse but exclusively pump for their babies.  I think that’s amazing, because I know how damn hard it is.  For the first 12 weeks, you’re supposed to go absolutely no longer than 3 hours between sessions to establish your milk supply.  Yes, even during the night.  After that you can start to cut back, but even if you’re only doing it three times a day (as I currently do) it’s just a pain in the butt (this coming from someone who isn’t even working).
  • Everyone has a different experience with this one, but I think it hurts everyone to some degree.  I was lucky to never have the cracked/bleeding nipples problem (which is fairly common, by the way), nor did I ever get mastitis (inflammation of breast tissue), clogged ducts, thrush, etc.  BUT, babies will clamp down really hard in order to stop the milk flow.  Just take a moment to imagine that.  Then imagine the baby has teeth.***

*The World Health Organization recently did a systematic review of the literature and concluded that there are no substantial long-term benefit to breastfeeding over infant formula; Dr. Amy Tuteur (whose blog I LOVE) summarizes here.  This should be somewhat intuitive, because it’s not as though you can look at your group of friends and go, “oh, yeah, she was totally formula fed as a baby.”  That isn’t to say there aren’t short-term benefits.  There are.

**My “let down” was too fast for him to swallow in time, causing him to choke, and also causing him to be a bit afraid of nursing.

***Misha does not… yet.  :(

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“What’s your excuse?”

I’m going to get right into this, last night before going to bed (which meant I was up for at least an hour thinking about it and not sleeping), I came across the following photograph on Facebook:

The photo on the right spark a lot of outrage. This particular comparison sparked a lot of outrage.  I, too, was outraged.  A huge amount of commentators make major assumptions as to the “discipline” and “work ethic” of the mom on the right, scrambling to the defense of the one on the left saying the photo/question is being taken out of context, that she is only trying to be motivating and inspirational, if people are bothered it’s because THEY have issues and it isn’t her fault…

The woman in the photo on the left, one Maria Kang, made a public comment about the backlash to her photo (she didn’t have anything to do with the comparison of the two, I am certain); in the comments I read this (by a woman called Erica):

The only way you can answer her question is to admit to your failure and thereby praise her achievement. [emphasis mine] ‘What’s my excuse for not looking like a fitness model? Well, I’m busy/I have health problems/I have other goals in life’ – all of those things can be torn down by someone who highly values looking fit as ‘excuses’ – even when they are perfectly valid ones.  It’s perfectly understandable that a lot of people have responded badly to her.”

Yes, that.  Exactly that.  Maria’s question of “What’s your excuse?” is absolutely the worst part of the photo– as for the photo itself: who cares? She looks great even for someone with zero kids. Good for her.  If that’s someone’s priority, if that’s what they need to feel sane, if fitness is their business (as it is certainly Maria Kang’s), I get it.  That isn’t the point. The point is that pregnancy and childbirth wreck your body, that point is that people are different, not everyone is meant to look certain ways, the point is that socioeconomic status is a huge factor in health outcomes, the point is that women face enough pressure without growing people inside of them and then trying to sustain them for 6+ months with only their breasts (do you have any idea how exhausting it is?!).

But, what really got me, that I felt compelled to write about, is that, of all the comments I mistakenly read, I didn’t see anyone point out some very major differences:

  1. The photo on the left is professionally taken, which means: there’s excellent lighting, a hundred takes for every published one, and some degree of editing– obviously she looks good no matter what, but it elevates her from looking good to perfect.
  2. The BABY on the left is significantly older than the baby on the right (On her site, she says he is 8 months– I’m guess the baby on the right is under 2 months, given the amount of support the mother needed to provide for the photo).
  3. On that note, the fact that the mother on the right needed to support her baby means she is in a much less flattering, sort of hunched over pose (in addition to not being in a well-lit studio with a professional photographer)
  4. The woman on the right has massive boobs and I would bet my first-born son that she is nursing, whereas Maria nursed a maximum of 6 months (but possibly only 3).  One of the touted benefits of breastfeeding is that it accelerates weight loss, but at least one study disputes that.  My OB basically advised me not to expect to lose the last of the baby weight until I was done nursing, and a simple Google search verifies that many women have a very difficult time with weight loss whilst nursing.

I want to be very clear that my main problem is primarily with the overwhelmingly negative, body-shaming responses by commentators.  Maria Kang may be a bit self-involved and oblivious, but she is not the problem here; another commentator described her as “a rather thoughtless player in a bigger social game.”  A pretty sound analysis in my opinion.

And, yeah, this struck a chord with me.  Apart from everything above, it’s totally personal. I struggle with my postpartum body and body image.  As a person who has historically been lean and athletic, I feel like I’ve been run over by a mack truck.

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