Sunday, February 28, 2010

All Of That Butt-Wiping Actually Has Some Benefits

At one point, there were 17 dresses in the fitting room. I tried the ruffle thing, experimented with something ruched and silently sobbed over at least a dozen other tricks and tips I picked up while watching "What Not To Wear."

The nerve of my husband's cousin for planning his wedding five weeks after I give birth. Don't you think my body image should have been a factor when they picked the date for this big affair?

But whether I like it or not, the big day is Friday and I doubt the bride will be pleased if I show up in sweatpants. (Seriously, does anyone have any tips for dressing them up?)

So I journeyed in the snow to Woodbridge Mall on Saturday, hitting up every department store in search of whatever style would make me appear least pregnant. Can you imagine the horror if some distant in-law approaches with the question of "so when's this baby due?"

My daughter Erin was delighted by the idea of shopping with Mom. "Fashion show!" she bellowed before I even slipped into dress number one. But the pain, disappointment and utter horror that followed was something that no one saw coming.

"But I'm a size six, really," I told my husband, who was lovingly fetching bigger sizes and styles for me each time I tossed something over the door - all while juggling and feeding baby Gorman in the obligatory men's waiting room.

And there it was: the tell-tale sign of all of that ice cream I ate in month seven - a size 14 silk-satin number that was literally my last shot.

"That's the biggest one," Pat said, as kindly as he could.

The tears immediately started streaming. Before I could even slip this horrible sized-all-wrong frock over one boob, my arm fat was flying, the after-baby pouch was clearly visible and the zipper didn't make it over my back cleavage. Believe me, my three-year-old tried.

"How could women's clothing be sized so unevenly?" I protested, blaming the baby fat on anyone else but myself.

"Jess, you just had a baby," Pat countered. "Who cares about a dress, look at the miracle you just brought into this world."

How could he be so insensitive? Doesn't he know there's only so much control-top pantyhose can do for my self-esteem?

So I basically gave up.

"I'll stay home," I said, literally giving in to all of those stupid ready-to-wear designers who obviously have never had children. Or never had to go to a wedding one month after having a C-section. Ever.

But on the way out of the store, Erin gravitated toward a rack full of purple chiffon.

"Don't touch," I scolded, eyeing the BCBG hangtags and remembering her chocolate-cookie fingers. "Those are really expensive dresses."

And then I felt it as I tugged it out of her hand: Beautiful, soft, silky satin - for 50 percent off.

"Get this one," Erin said, spinning through the rack, arms wide open, her chubby fingers touching every magical thread. Back to the fitting room, maybe this could actually work.

And it did. Somewhere, in the otherwise skinny world of fashion, someone actually designed a somewhat fashionable dress - with sleeves! It was flowy, forgiving and even a little Kardashian-esque. (Super chic, but still big enough for girls with junk in their trunks.)

Finally, I felt confident enough to give Erin her fashion show. I ducked out of the dressing room, gave a little twirl and her face lit up.

"Mommy, you're beeeeautiful!" she shouted.

Now the tears really started flowing, but it was only because I felt so good. I'm the one who wipes her butt, so she has to love me, but she looked at me the same way she looked at Cinderella when we took her to Disney World last year.

"Purple makes you pretty," she said.

And I sobbed even harder as I changed back into my frumpy sweats. It simply amazed me how a toddler could see beyond my flabby exterior and make me feel so genuinely gorgeous.

If only Lord & Taylor had an Erin in every department, the fashion world would be a much happier place.

Goodbye Breastpump, Hello Guilt

Dear Breastpump,

I regret to inform you that after only one month of a very contentious relationship, (four weeks, four days and a couple of hours, actually) I no longer need your services.

It's nothing personal, really, I just feel as though we've grown apart and I honestly cannot be attached to you five or six times a day.

So many people have tried to convince me otherwise, lecturing incessantly on the benefits that a year or more of nursing provides, but I feel like I have to simply go with my gut on this one.

For the record, I know that breast milk is nature's most perfect food, I am completely aware of the bonding that occurs between mom and baby during the process and I've been fully schooled on the allergy and asthma prevention that nursing provides. But all of the pain, infection and general life consumption tell me it's time to part ways. I know I sound like a monster, but seriously, that cannot be what these things were made for.

My daughter said it perfectly the other day when she cried out in defiance over losing her best friend to the Medela Pump In Style: "I need my mommy back," she sobbed, when I put off playing, baths and lunch for what seemed like the hundredth time that week. "You were so much nicer before the baby made you use that machine."

Yes, I am consumed with guilt and worry every second that this little newborn munchkin is getting all the nutrition he needs. But I'm firm believer that God fortified Similac with iron for a reason. And the time I've regained with my daughter is priceless.

So I'm calling it quits and will stuff you back in the closet until we bring another possible Gorman into this world. (But don't get your hopes up.) Until then, I will not think of you at all. Eventually the guilt will subside, but in the meantime I'm cooking up some spicy food and having a cocktail.

No dumping necessary.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When God Created Mothers, He Made Me Extra Leaky

Back in 1974, veteran humorist Erma Bombeck penned and published a touching Mother's Day tribute about the very moment when God created mothers.

"She has to be completely washable, but not plastic," the Lord tells an angel in Bombeck's column. "(She should) have 180 movable parts... all replaceable; run on black coffee and leftovers; have a lap that disappears when she stands up; a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair; and six pairs of hands.”

According to Bombeck - a devout Catholic and mother of three herself - the Lord said mothers also need three pairs of eyes, the talent to feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger and a tough-as-nails exterior that can endure almost anything.

It's been four weeks since we brought our newborn son home from the hospital, and during that time, as I've tried to balance my attention between an infant's needs and the natural adjustment period of my three-year-old daughter, I've thought a lot about Bombeck's words.

Have I felt the need to be completely washable? Absolutely. Especially at 3 a.m. this morning when this baby regurgitated Similac down my neck and projectile pooped on my pajamas at the very same time.

Have I been looking for those five other pairs of hands? Every minute of every day.

How about the black coffee and leftovers? I take mine with sugar and cream, but that's basically the only difference.

When it comes to kissing boo-boos and balancing a family, Erma really knew how difficult "doing it all" could be. I suppose that's why in Bombeck's vision, sometime during the creation process, God's angel finds a flaw: A leak coming from the model mother's eye, dripping down her cheek and staining her face.

“There’s a leak,” the angel pronounces. “I told You You were trying to push too much into this model.”

But it wasn't a leak, it was a tear, God responded, respresenting all of the joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride a mother experiences on a daily basis.

And for the past month, as I've continually cried for no reason - during midnight feedings, at the dinner table and when my husband or my daughter or my son does anything remotely sentimental - I've thought about my own leaks.

Yes, the constant flow of post-pregnancy hormones have made me extra weepy and sleep deprivation is an amazingly emotional experience. But as I sit here, blogging with one hand and burping with the other, I realize that my extra-leaky exterior is also an indication of my super-duper mommy resolve.

In the process of building our family, I've joined a very special club: A sisterhood of women who do it all, rarely complain and juggle all of life's ups and downs with a God-given grace.

How do mothers manage a home, a family and all of the other incredibly important daily details? The coffee helps, but thankfully, we're all waterproof too.