Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's in a name: On lifting the veil of anonymity

I haven't been sure how I wanted to handle Magpie's name on this blog. Would she always remain as Magpie? Would I reveal her real name? For a while, when she was a newborn, I felt that Magpie fit as her name. It's what we had called her in utero. And although she had made an exit from the womb, she was still a very new creature, a stranger to me really, and to call her Magpie here seemed appropriate.

But as she's grown, it doesn't feel as right anymore.

I'm already posting photos of Ms. Magpie, but not her name...would revealing her first name really expose her any more?

Many times, I have accidentally typed her real name into this blog and had to go back and erase it.

And it's made me wonder - what am I keeping her name secret for? Does she need to be protected in this way?

I know many here have commented that you wanted to know her real name, that you almost felt owed it after following our journey for so long. And I hear you. But my primary focus is of course what is best for my daughter.

Will and I have somewhat public personas due to our professional academic and clinical roles and therefore we will be remaining as Mo and Will. And funny enough those names have come to fit us.

I wanted to ask those of you who are parenting, those who have revealed their child's name or have used a pseudonym, how did you make that decision?


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Monday, April 29, 2013

6 months in the blink of an eye

I can't believe it, but last week Little Ms. Magpie turned six months old.

She's still a wee little girl, last officially weighing in at 12 pounds at her four month appointment. I know she's bigger now, but not sure how much bigger. She's wearing some 0-3 month clothes and a fair amount of 3-6 months clothes (although some of the brands are still way too big in that size, like Baby Gap). She wears size 2 diapers, but they are fairly big on her.

What is Magpie's personality like these days? Magpie is a pretty happy girl much of the time. She'll let you know when she's not, though. She is very determined and motivated. She works at a new skill over and over again until she has it nailed. And when there is a toy that she wants, she persists in her efforts to get it, not giving up easily. She seems to be very independent to me, not the little cuddler I was imagining she would be. She will let me hold her but doesn't curl against my body unless she is very sleepy, and mostly she seems to prefer to be on the go and exploring rather than hanging out for any length of time in mommy or daddy's arms. We are told by others that she has a great attention span for a baby really able to focus for a long time on a single thing (I haven't focused on that myself, so not sure).

Communication: Magpie is a pro at making "ssspppppttt" noises with her lips and loves to do this back and forth with others. She does some cooing but is not really babbling yet. She is very expressive and has a piercing shriek she enjoys practicing, just to hear herself, I think.

Moxie and Magpie: Magpie and Moxie are developing a very good friendship. Moxie brings her balls and stuffed animals over to Magpie and drops them near Magpie. And Magpie will bat at the ball or toy, the two of them "playing" for minutes at a time (well supervised, of course). Moxie will lay down beside Magpie and roll against her nuzzling her. Magpie is particularly enamored with Moxie's collar and tags these days, although she also likes to touch Moxie's ears and paws. And Moxie is very patient and tolerant of it all. 

Motor Skills: Magpie is a busy, busy girl. She has learned to crawl in the past week, and in just that time has gone from barely crawling to making it across the room at a rapid rate. She has also become a champion sitter upper. She can even get up off of her back into a sitting position (this little girl has abs of steel!). She loves to grab things and puts everything in her mouth. She mimics us chewing with her own mouth and watches intently (but no teeth yet, still a wonderful gummy smile!). She misses nothing, this girl! Once last week, she held herself in a standing position in her crib. Gah! No standing yet! I am not ready!

Bathtime: I just got Magpie a bath seat, which she likes a lot, but often tries to lean over in, making it unsafe. She has several plastic bath toys, that she loves. Her favorite baths are when mommy gets in too and she can sit between my legs and play with her toys. This can turn bathtime into a happy 20 minute activity, a nice relaxing bonding time at the end of the day when otherwise she might be cranky.

Napping: Magpie usually has three naps a day. The first is about 45 minutes to an hour at 9am, then another longer nap at 12 for 1-2 hours, then a final nap at 4pm-ish for another 45 minutes or so.

Sleeping: This is still fairly rough, and deserves its own post. Magpie goes to bed at 7-7:30. She often is awake around 11 and needs help finding her pacifier to settle back down again. she might be up again at 1am briefly and then eat (2-3 ounces) at 2am or 3am. She sleeps until 5:15 most days....maybe 6am if we're really lucky. Then she is up for the day. If only her parents were feeling like being up for the day at that time!

Eating: Magpie still is not a good eater. We struggle to get 30+ ounces of breast milk into her (four feedings of 7.5 ounces each, plus usually 2-3 ounces overnight). She is now using the Playtex Nurser bottle. Often she won't drink if you hold her (slightly heartbreaking for me) and does better if you feed her in her swing or in her crib while she watches her mobile. We used to swaddle her while she ate and this helped, but now it seems to frustrate her. Yesterday we introduced solid food to her - sweet potato mixed with breast milk. She loved it! So she will be having that each morning in addition to her regular milk intake. 

I can't believe she is here. That we are a complete family. I am so thrilled at her presence. So in love with her. As the days pass and she becomes more and more interactive, the connection grows. 

I think it is slowly sinking in: We are a family. We made it out the other side. She is finally here, and she is growing up right in front of me. How did we get so lucky?


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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Days of grace: the worry edition

1. I tossed and turned in between caring for the little one last night, filled with angst. Strange sadness wafting over me that we didn't do a professional photo shoot when my little girl was a newborn, that although we've taken many photos and shot a good amount of video, none of it is "professional" quality. Already I feel that she is growing and changing, just as she should be, but that I haven't captured or savored each moment enough perhaps, despite how longed for each one has been, and now some moments are already gone. Strange nostalgic sadness and anxiety. I awoke and booked a photo shoot immediately in the hopes of getting her gummy smile commemorated before she sprouts her first tooth and this too is gone. She's growing and changing so fast!

2. Sleep strike: Ms. Magpie has not been interested in napping or sleeping long of late, instead wanting to twist herself around and look at everything (even in the dark) and grab at my clothes and my hands. How can one little girl have so much energy? How can she not be as tired as I am?

3. Now that I am back at work, I feel de-skilled more than ever with my daughter. I have paranoid thoughts that she doesn't know the difference between myself and her caregiver or that she prefers the caregiver. I worry that I will become a stranger to her. Not rational, I know. I want her to be deeply connected to the caregiver. Just mommy doubt, I think. Funny how sometimes I feel so incompetent around her, so incapable of knowing how to do the right thing and other times we fit together perfectly.

4. My daughter is a mover, as I have mentioned before. She is always twisting and arching her body. It is often a struggle to feed her as she prefers to whip her head from side to side to evade the nipple when she can. We've been told she has "high tone." I had her evaluated by a physical therapist who said that she is high toned and tense but that we don't need to intervene. This writhing, board-like, ever moving baby is not what I expected. I worry that she is uncomfortable or that I am doing something wrong. Or that there is something amiss (despite what we've been told) and I'm missing or delaying the opportunity to help her.


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Friday, April 19, 2013

What is a professional mom to do?

After five years and six miscarriages, I am the mother of a very beautiful and very alive little girl. A little girl who is nearly six months old. I love it. I love her. And in some difficult to articulate way, motherhood completes me, fills me unlike anything I've ever experienced. After all of this time of wanting, it has become part of who I am. I never thought I would be able to say it, but I am a mom.

I am also a professional. I went to school for a long time - eight additional years after my four-year college degree - and earned a PhD in clinical psychology. I completed a two year post-doctoral fellowship. And ultimately I was awarded a faculty position at a medical school as a research scientist. When faced with what career path to take during our long journey with infertility, I have always chosen the more ambitious route. Partially because I love what I do and want to do it well. And partially to distract myself from my profound sadness over our seemingly terminal infertility and multiple losses. My work is full. It is fulfilling. I spend my days seeing patients, conducting clinical research, writing grants and research articles, giving talks, and supervising trainees.

Or rather I used to, before I went out on maternity leave.

Since my beloved daughter arrived, I've been showering her with kisses and eking out as much time away from work as is humanly possible. In fact, I somehow managed to get permission to take off up until this very week. Much of it unpaid leave, but still. In America, 5.5 months off is an almost unheard of length of maternity leave. (Canadians and Europeans, I know that 5.5 months off is no big shakes, but sadly many in the U.S. get only 6-8 weeks).

But now the university wants me back. And I am filled with ambivalence.

I am crazy in love with my daughter. And I want to be an integral part of her day to day life. I'm also deeply aware of - and humbled by - the fact that my husband Will and I are currently my daughter's whole world. What she knows of trust, of security, of happiness, comes from whatever amount of warmth and consistency and touch we are able to give her. To go back to work (and thereby be away from her) feels on some level instinctually and primally wrong.

On the other hand, I am also aware of the fact that she will grow up, and not need me so much, and that if I step away from my academic career now, it will not be waiting for me when I may want to return to it in five or so years. I also worked long and hard to have the role I do now (see above about 12 years of education post high school).

So being kind of a science-y sort, I decided to look to the data. What do other people think about moms working or staying home or doing something in-between?

It turns out that the Pew Research Center has just completed a survey on this very topic.

And here are a few key findings, in graphical form:

So the majority of people overall vote for part-time employment. Sounds great!!! But this is not compatible with being on the faculty of a medical school, now or ever again (one of those 'once you've stepped off of the merry-go-round you are off' types of situations...)

What about working mothers? What do they think? This should be helpful, I thought. Maybe other moms like me can help me think through what feels most right in this situation...

Part-time wins again! Although it looks like significantly more moms are voting for full-time in 2012 versus in 2007.

From a purely financial perspective, I am lucky that I am not the primary breadwinner in our family. I realize it is a luxury that I even get to grapple with the notion of how much I want to work. My husband Will is on the faculty at the same medical school that I am, but is much better compensated (he is on a clinical track; I am on a research track). I make a decent salary, but if I chose my work based purely on finances, I could make more money in fewer hours if I left academics and entered private practice.

What do I think I want in an ideal world? If you asked me today, I think I agree with the majority, that part-time work really fits the bill the best. I'd like to have my cake and eat it too. To have my daughter see her mom working as a professional, and see herself by extension as capable of anything she puts her mind to. But I also want to spend as much time with her as I can and strongly desire her to feel that she and not mom's work, is most important.

The trouble is, I cannot remain on the faculty at my institution on a part-time basis, or I would do that in a heartbeat. And so, for now, I am returning to my current position. I am going to test the waters and see if I can work in the new way that I want to (home earlier in the evening, not working nights and weekends). I've negotiated one day at home to work remotely. Of course, as a new mom, I have a whole new perspective on what's important, and I'm hoping to be able to translate that into a changed approach to my work.

So right now I'm going through my own version of separation anxiety. My daughter seems completely unfazed, but I am a bit of a wreck.

For the next few months, I will take each day as it comes, taking my emotional temperature from time to time about working as a mom. I'll be posting as I feel my way through this return-to-work transition, I'll figure out exactly what kind and amount of work makes sense for me and my family now and for the future.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. I would love to hear from other working moms about how you navigated your own back-to-work transitions.


Read more about the data from the Pew Research Center report on Modern Parenthood here. 

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sundays of grace (on any day)

I haven't written a "Sundays of Grace" post in a long time, but it seems as good a time as any to resurrect these posts. I love how Susan at sprogblogger.com uses this format to capture the many small (but momentous in their own way) moments with her son, Henry. We have so many moments here, and I am often thinking to post about them, but then I don't have time at that minute... and then... I'm off to the next task or adventure.

So here goes...

1. Walk in Central Park in the early morning: Magpie seems to wake like clockwork at 5:30AM, no matter what time we put her down the night before. And Will and I are not really early morning people (especially me). So this morning, we got up and out around 6:45 AM and took Moxie and Magpie to Central Park, stopping at a Starbucks along the way. We let Moxie off-leash (allowed at that early hour) and played fetch with her with various sticks. And Magpie watched from her stroller. I was pleased that we were able to take something we struggle with and are not so fond of (these weekend early morning wakenings) and instead celebrate it and make a memory.

2. Magpie is becoming such a little person these days. She swivels her head around to look right and left, to take in everything. Her eyes brighten when she catches yours, or her image of herself in the mirror. She's even started to notice Moxie and to reach for her paw (almost like she wants to hold hands) or her ear when she is nearby. She makes a "spppptttt" noise with her lips and she loves when I do it to and she and I can "converse" (in spit, I guess!). She loves reaching for things, for everything.

3. My girl is a girl on the go. Always. She loves to make a jumping motion with her legs if she is held in a standing position (which is one of her favorite positions), and if she is in your arms or on her stomach or back, she is kicking, kicking, kicking. Multiple people have said that we will be in for it once Magpie starts crawling. I think we will need to be vigilant but that Magpie will be so so happy to be able to move on her own. She is one determined girl, and it is pretty frustrating to her to not be able to get to whatever she has her mind set on. I think with crawling will come great relief for her.

4. Warm days outside. It is such a pleasure to have warmer weather again and to be able to take Magpie outside to the park or playground or just out on the sidewalks of Manhattan. Especially because she's at an age that she's taking in everything around her. She loves to watch the children on the playground and to watch dogs and passerby in the street. She loves the colors and shapes at our local market Fairway or at our neighborhood pharmacy Duane Reade. Nice now that the weather is cooperating to get outside with her and take a leisurely stroll. Only when she's in a strolling mood of course : )

Magpie trying out a swing for the first time at the playground.
5. Magpie's personality: My mom was here visiting and described Magpie's personality as "mellow but driven," and I think that's a pretty good description of her. She's generally a pretty happy girl, but she definitely knows what she wants, and she is not afraid to let you know. As a bit of a people-pleaser myself, I kind of admire this trait in her : )

6. I am in a phase where I am in love with Magpie. Just besotted. I think that I could cover her entire body with kisses. That I could gobble her up with my affection. I think at the moment she might like that, too. It won't always be so, but for now, we can enjoy moments where we just bask in each other.

7.  Sometimes I look at Magpie and I think I catch a glimpse of the little girl she is on the way to becoming, rather than the itty bitty baby she has been. I look at her and think I see her older self for a moment, just for a split second. And my eyes fill up. I still can't believe she is alive, that she is here. Even more impossible to think that she is growing up, a little bit every day, right before my eyes.


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