Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hiatus

Things have been good with my parents- me and my mom had like a 4 hour conversation where we had everything out (or I did anyway-I  told her all the secrets I have been keeping for like...31 years).   I'm glad we did that, because just going on pretending like none of our past ever happened was not working for me, and now I feel better about having my parents in C's life.   My parents actually invited us up to their house for spring break and offered to pay for all our travel expenses. Not sure yet if we will go, but we will be up there in June.  We were also invited to shabbas dinner with my parents when we are up there in June but I'm not sure if we'll do that- we may just hang out during non-shabbas times. Or maybe we'll go to friday night dinner. That would be kinda weird, but why not?  I'm excited that B is finally going to get to see the house I grew up in. 

Lately I've been rethinking a lot of my hobbies.  I've gone back to work, I have a baby, and spending 20 hours a day on the internet just doesn't appeal the way it used to.  I think I'm pretty much done with blogging for a while (here and at my livejournal).  I also resigned as moderator of the Off the Derech facebook page, which I have helped moderate since it took off a few years ago.  I used to spend many hours a day on the computer, now there are days I don't even check my facebook.

Over winter break I bought a new acoustic guitar and a ukulele. I've played guitar since high school, and had an acoustic and an electric (an epiphone les paul) guitar but right before I moved to the south, I discovered my acoustic guitar was broken- the neck had a big crack.  I think it was either our dog, or one of our friends who was always playing my guitar when they came to visit.   I wasn't playing guitar much at that point anyway, so it didn't seem like a big deal. 

But lately I'd been wanting to play guitar for C, and even tried playing my electric for her a bit, but dragging an amp around is lame, and I always preferred playing acoustic to electric.  So I got a new acoustic guitar- a Seagull- at a pawn shop in town that specializes in musical instruments. While I was there I picked up a ukulele for $30, which I've always wanted.  And I've been playing lots of music for C on both, and am quickly picking up ukulele.  Unlike blogging, playing instruments is a hobby we can both enjoy.

I also have been reading a lot more off-line, and am up to book 9 of the Wheel of Time, and just bought a bunch of non fiction books about Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and the Suffrage movement, and another book that's about great speeches by American women. After I'm done with that I have a few sociology books that have been piling up, which I've been meaning to read. I also got new reading glasses that are actually my prescription which helps with that.

C is starting to crawl and we just started her on solid foods. I read lots of books to her too.

A few weeks ago B and I celebrated our 7 year anniversary of knowing each other.  In a few months it'll be our 5 year wedding anniversary.

This blog is pretty much for when things are going terribly with my family, and now they aren't anymore.  So for now, I'm going on hiatus.  I may come back and post some more if things go wrong with my family again, but I'm hoping I won't be posting here again. I'll leave all my past posts up for those who are still helped by them. 

You guys have been awesome.  Thank you. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dropping a line

I've been falling behind on posting about stuff.  What's been happening since thanksgiving? Mostly I've been working my butt off. I have a big article coming out in April that I've very excited about (Basically the main argument of my dissertation) and which I think may take my career to the next level, in which the media actually pays attention to my research. :)  It is a big breakthrough in my subfield and overturns a couple of decades of research and common (wrong) beliefs in the general population.  I'm working on a press release about my research, and have been talking to some friend of friends who work with the media a lot, about how to best frame my press release so my message gets through clearly.  And a friend from middle school who is a journalist for a big newspaper.   But there's been a lot of very short notice deadlines for that related to copy editing and reading over the page proofs.

I talked to my parents a few weeks ago about a bunch of stuff. I was working on a new research project and some of my research is related to people who dissent (as part of studying social change).  So I got curious whether my own personal experiences as a dissident matched some of my research, and ended up talking to both my parents about a lot of stuff that happened in the past and that we went through.  Too much to go into.  I also think I have been building up to this and finally had out a bunch of things that we never talk about and that it pisses me off that we never talk about. And in the process found out my mom has some bizarro twisted view of reality that has little to do with mine. But some highlights:

1. My mom claims the letter she sent me before my wedding about how we can never have a real relationship if I marry my husband was not a letter disowning me but she was "warning me" about what people like my aunt would end up doing

2. I expressed to my mother how mad I am about the way my Aunt is treating her and how ungrateful I think she is being considering everything my mother has done for her and her kids. She started to defend her, and I made clear this was not about religion, it was about being a decent human being. I think she had never even considered what a bitch her sister is being to her and I made clear to her that I think her sister is an ungrateful bitch who doesn't deserve a sister who has done half the things my mom has done for her.  I don't think she had ever considered that perspective.

3. I also basically told her that I don't think me and her are that different, that we are both very passionate people, who, when we believe things, feel we have to live our lives according to them. The problem is we believe different things- she believes that judaism is true and i don't. But we are both living according to our beliefs, no mater what the consequences (so we are both kind of dissidents in that respect).  And it's not that we don't care about each other, it's that we think living according to our beliefs is the most important.

I think my mom has thought all this time that I am not being religious because I hate her, or am rebellious, or I think she is dumb.  But I expressed to her that none of those things are true. That I am not religious because I just don't believe it's true. Which is something we have never ever talked about.

I also told her some stories that I think have influenced why I didn't believe it was true- like that for me, the reason I thought it was true was because I was trusting that rabbis were passing down information  and then i got screwed over by a school rabbi/principal in first grade, Rabbi Goldstein, who forced me to lie and say a teacher had not hit me, which made me realize he was a fucking liar.  He was the head of the yeshiva I went to, Yeshiva of North Jersey, so the head of the "School of jewish thought" I was being indoctrinated into, who was basically saying to take things he said in his big assemblies on faith.

My high school principal Mrs. Bak was like that woman in harry potter who wears all pink and has kitty plates, who reveled in publicly humiliating me because she could never answer my tough questions.  As did many teachers in my high school. In Bat Torah once I challenged a GPA policy that prevented a very responsible friend who had been stage manager of the school play from running for school president, by arguing to the principal that only allowing honors students to run for school government gave us a student government that didn't represent the students of our school. I got sent to the teacher's lounge where a teacher asked me what I wanted to do as a grown up and when I answered (that I wanted to be a musician, which was my ambition at the time- I started off college as a music major, and my flute teacher had been encouraging me to apply to juliard in high school), she screamed at me in front of everyone that I would always be a failure in life, and I should just shut up and give up, because I would always fail at anything I tried. I gotta say, my desire to prove that bitch wrong got me through some dark days in grad school...and she is now the head of the Michlalah school in Israel. Devorah Rosenwasser.

I couldn't trust Pia, the head of my sleepaway camp Sternberg, to know what she was talking about, because even though she knew all these great ancient jewish songs, and we learned some neat jewish crafts, she kicked me out of Sternberg my second summer after falsely accusing me of cutting open the counselor's suitcase because I was the bunk 'troublemaker', because I was always going hiking into the woods during rest hour instead of sitting in my bunk gossiping with the other girls and the counselor didn't like that.  What I was doing was hiking across this awesome stream to this clearing I found where I built a little tent out of branches and ferns, where I would go hang out and read books by myself.  I always loved going on random adventures, and still do- at home I biked to go hiking in the woods in a nature preserve near my house, and my parents had led me to believe that this was something I would do in sleepaway camp, so I just went out and did it during rest hour, which infuriated my counselors (because they thought it was dangerous probably).  My dad also sent me some matches because he thought I would actually be camping out at some point (we did a couple of times, but in pre-built tents). These two things got me labelled a troublemaker, so when someone cut open my couselor's suitcase, I got accused, and nobody would believe I wasn't lying about it.  So I couldn't trust them to know the difference between a truth teller and a liar. So how could I trust them when they said religion was right?  ("Them" could easily also include my parents come to think of it).

And then when the rabbi of my shul, Rabbi Yudin, who I always trusted, and who was friends with my parents and the dad of my good friend growing up (so he was like a second dad to me- I saw him in his bathrobe eating shabbas breakfast after sleepovers as a young child) started protecting a fucking child molester (Baruch Lanner) who had kicked my ex boyfriend in the balls several times, which only me and my ex knew at the time as far as I know (he was never one of the public victims). I was just like "Fuck this guy, he don't know shit."  My rabbi supporting a child molester was just the final straw. Because at that point, he was the only rabbi or authority figure in my life left who I thought might have any good judgement at all. And he most definitely didn't.

 And once I didn't have the rabbis to give me trust that it was correct, I started looking for some other proofs. And couldn't find them. That's when I went from being secretly OTD and not breaking shabbas, after experimenting and finding that god didn't strike me down as a teen, to openly OTD.  That's when I went from trying to live within the "spirit of the law" like playing video games on shabbas because that is what I do to relax, to writing papers on shabbas even though it was work.  That's when I went from eating vegetarian food without a hashgacha, to eating non kosher meat and not keeping the torah at all.  It was when I went from thinking that some rabbi's had it wrong but it was pretty much a good religion, to thinking it was all bullshit, and that even the well meaning nice rabbis and people were misguided and wrong about it. That's when I realized you didn't have to be a bad or a dumb person to be duped by religion, just like my Rabbi, who was not a bad or a dumb person, was duped by a child molester and abuser. And religion. Suddenly he was all too human to me.

My mother never knew any of this stuff, because I never had an open relationships with her, because I was always afraid of her judgement (and rightly so, as I pointed out to her). But to her religion was never about the rabbis (it was about her family's mesorah).

And what I didn't add was that I started looking more into religious proofs, because I couldn't trust the rabbi I grew up with, or the principal of my school in elementary or high school or my teachers.  And then all I found when I looked for proof the religion was true was the documentary hypothesis, and nechemya perek 8 where ezra "reteaches" the tanach (destroying the kuzari proof) and the Cohen Godol (jewish high priest) who magically "Found" the book of vayikra. Eventually, when I went to other jewish communities, and couldn't find a group of people or a marriage partner who agreed with my radical leftist political values in which I wasn't even the slightest little bit a sexist and racist, I eventually gave up on all jews entirely and stopped keeping even the holidays.  I didn't tell my mom or dad this stuff in quite as much detail. I don't know that I want to destroy their faith the way mine has been destroyed, because they like the community. Plus they themselves are pretty sexist and racist, and they don't like when I point it out to them (which I do every time they are, since I was a teen). But once you know it's fake, if you are a person of principle, like I know my parents are, you can't go on living that way. And even though I'm not sure I could convince them judaism is not true, I don't really even want to risk doing that to them unless they come to me asking about it. Their careers and social lives are built on their religion, and they like the community.

4. My mom apparently thought I was some weird pathological messed up liar as a teenager.  Because I was constantly being caught lying to them. Because I was trying to hide the fact that I was secretly not religious and had secret boyfriends they would not approve of because I  knew she wasn't about to let me go off to spend weekends hooking up in hotels with my boyfriends, and I figured she would hate me for not being religious and dating boys she clearly disproved of because they were never religious, like me (I always dated other OTDers). Which kind of came true. Plus all these other incidents where I got accused of lying because I saw through bullshit, or would not back down when I was abused by someone, or got accused of messed up things when they happened, because I refused to just fit in and do things I thought were stupid. And I was a weirdo who liked reading in the woods (ha, that so describes me now as well). But I explained to her that that whole time I was secretly OTD and that was why she was always catching me sneaking around, and that she and my dad are actually the only two people I have ever lied to, and it was mostly about being a horny teenager and wanting to date boys.  And I didn't do any of these things I was accused of doing, and was not lying about that. And that I actually hate liars (due to all these experiences).  And I don't think she has ever considered our history in that light before either.

5. I talked to my dad about a whole bunch of different things me and my brothers went through as kids because people in our family didn't really care what other people thought - like for instance, my little brother wore a tuxedo to school for an entire year as a kid  (and got really bullied for it) because he really liked them. Now he works at a job requiring a lot of fancy uniforms and has a side job doing musical stuff where he dresses in fancy tuxedos frequently.   In retrospect I think that was about him wanting to be like my dad, who he saw wearing a suit to work all the time. He just thought that was what men did when they left the house- they wore a suit. Ha.  My dad interpreted this as me reminiscing about the past, and I was like "Hey, that's what normal families do. It's nice, aye?"

So in a word: PROGRESS!  Massive progress.  Saying things that needed to be said and clearing up misconceptions that have been around for 17+ years.

There are several misconceptions they have about B too. They say they can't get any read on him. I know it's because B hates them after the way they have treated the two of us (and especially me) for the past 7 years, and they have poisoned their relationship. So he is afraid of saying anything around them, because he is afraid he will tell them what he really thinks, and he knows I want to get along with them. Meanwhile I pointed out that they are not themselves around him either. Another thing they had never considered.

Some day I'm going to break it to them that when you reject people because they weren't born to the right vagina, and ask them to get a quicky fake conversion just for the sake of being a "jew," and then won't even meet them when they don't do it despite the fact that they are marrying your daughter,  and refuse to go to your daughter's wedding, when everyone knows if his mom was jewish none of this would be an issue, it comes off as super racist and bigoted to most normal human beings. And that when you don't come to weddings, and act like a bitch to your daughter, her husband doesn't feel kindly towards you.  But somehow in a nice way.

I actually think I will one day have to take more of a stand on this. That day will probably be when my brother gets married to his girlfriend (Who he lives with- she is awesome and not jewish).  My parents know about her and have already said they will not come to the wedding.  That was their first reaction to finding out he has had a secret girlfriend for 3 (now 3.5 or 4?) years that he is terrified of telling them about, and they had moved in together. But if they are going to be like that, really, how am I supposed to let them get to close to C?  So they can not come to her wedding when she inevitably marries someone who isn't jewish?  So that is when I will make my stand. And if not, they can know her as well as B knows his dad's dad- they met for the 5th or 6th time at his dad's funeral, and it didn't even occur to us to invite him to our wedding. 

But meanwhile, progress for now, and hopefully things for my parents to think on.  And next June we plan to drive up there- all 3 of us. I invited my parents to come to the bronx zoo with me, B and C. So far no response. We're staying at my OTD brother's place (with his now not secret GF).

We all went to the midwest for christmas. It was out first christmas without my father in law, which was a little bit sad. But C's first christmas, and our first christmas with our new brother in law being married and officially "in the family" which was nice.  My mother in law finally purchased a bed for the second bedroom, now that everyone can sleep with our partners. Ha!  C was showered with presents. All 5 of the adults played a few nerdy rounds of Munchkin, which we bought for my brother in law for christmas. Like intense all night games for 3 nights in a row. Yay for new brother in law nerds!

We used to have a christmas eve tradition of appetizers that my father in law always put together, but this year we went out for chinese food and watched a movie. which is kind of my christmas tradition from when I was younger- I used to have a christmas eve jew open house party at my parent's house (without their knowledge) when I was a teenager and young 20something and my parents went away for christmas for vacation every year.  Later I hosted similar parties at my apartment in Philadelphia before I started celebrating christmas for real with my husband. My friends from back home in NJ would come down to visit for christmas or new years, one year my best friend from back home (the boy I met the night before my 15th birthday, the first OTD I ever met who introduced to me the idea that it was even possible to go OTD) came to visit, and we want to get chinese in chinatown with a bunch of friends and then went to see the Life Aquatic at the indie movie theater in philly. Another year he brought a couple of other OTDers with him. A couple of years these visits ended with going to a hotel hippie party and show with a bunch of our friends. One year it coincided with chanukah and we fried up a bunch of latkes to bring with us.

B and I have decided our christmas tradition is going to be christmas eve chinese food and a movie, presents christmas morning, and dinner in the afternoon. And then we'll have appetizer new years, where we will try new foods (as per our rosh hashana tradition).  Tonight we are trying two types of caviar (I've never tried either) 2 new types of cheese (Champagne cheddar and fontina) and 2 types of champagne.  We're having "2013s": Champagne with strawberry-white cranberry ocean spray. C is having a bottle and night 2 of sleep training. 

Appetizer Christmas with Jim, 2012


B got into a minor fender bender with C while in the car today, so it's like 2013 is giving us a little "fuck you" kick on they way out. But this was an epic year. Pregnancy, the loss of my father in law in January, the June o' 5 paper submissions, not being able to walk most of the summer, C entering the world on July 26th, learning how to be a parent, and a new brother in law in October. I went on trips to Wilmington NC, Asheville NC, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Indiana. I stepped foot in Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina . Only one new publication came out this year (an encyclopedia entry) but my favorite article (based on the main thesis of my dissertation) finally got accepted for publication after many years and revisions (I've been working on that paper since 2007!) and I just sent back the final page proofs. I finally successfully grew a pumpkin (but just one) and was able to eat my first homegrown asparagus, blueberries, meyer lemon and saffron from my perennials.

2014 will be the year of toddlers, blackberries, more asparagus, research, beach trips, zoo trips, and more.  Happy new years!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgivikkah Holiday Ambivalence.

On facebook I've been talking to a friend about growing up not celebrating christmas, and the cultural ambivalence that she feels comes with celebrating it as a result. Also about the torment she always felt in December from her parents (Highly educated muslim immigrants from India- her dad is a professor) who kinda let her do some christmas things but mostly didn't let her do them, and doesn't like her celebrating christmas now.

My response:
Is the torment because you didn't/don't celebrate Christmas? I didn't either as a kid, and I'm ridiculously into it nowadays (when I celebrate with my husband's family). Same thing with Halloween (didn't celebrate it as a kid, love it now). But I always super loved thanksgiving cause it was the only holiday we celebrated as a kid that all the "normal" kids celebrated...so the only time a year I felt that kind of group solidarity you get from doing the same unusual thing everyone else in the country is doing, that's just not the same when it's only your small subgroup doing it and everyone looks at you like you're weird.

I get that cultural ambivalence too and it is 90,000 times worse now that I have a kid. Especially since for me culture and religion are so closely tied together that it is hard to separate what I might want to pass on (culture- but not all of it) from what I don't (religion, the sexism/xenophobia/tribal bullshit, the fact that a good large wing of her family including her great aunt and great grandparents and to some degree her own grandparents think she is something to be ashamed of because her father isn't jewish, and that like half her second cousins don't know she exists as a result). I mean we are 100% for sure celebrating christmas with her (I've celebrated christmas every year for the past 7 years with my in laws) but what do we pass on from my side? And do we celebrate things like easter, which seem very religious to me, but to my husband was just a holiday involving chocolate and a fun egg hunt that he did as a kid? 

In a way it's like the opposite of my friend's problem- she is still ambivalent about celebrating christmas and wanting to keep her parent's cutlure, I love christmas and am ambivalent about my parent's culture. For instance my parents just sent me a bunch of channukah stuff for Calliope.  It's funny- when I was a kid one thing I always resented around christmas time was my parents would always say that we couldn't get gifts for channukah, that people who did that were just "trying to be like the goyim" (non jews) so they would give us a very impersonal 20 dollar bill for chanukah.  But now that they have a granddaughter, and jewish culture is competing with secular culture.  Or maybe as they must view it, it's them vs. my mother in law, who they met right after C was born a few months ago, and who is super awesome and nice, so pretty hard to compete with just as a person, especially given the way they have treated us in the past. 

 So here's my awesome mother in law with christmas, showering gifts on my daughter (as she most definitely will cause she's a grandma!) while if they don't send her channukah gifts, it's not like B and I are going to go out of her way to get her anything. Especially in my case, having been taught by my parents that doing this is just a way to try to compete with christmas, and has nothing to do with the holiday at all.  And also to be honest, how many gifts around december time does one kid need?  We're not huge into consumeryness as it is, Christmas we tend to get more personal things, like last year we gave my FIL a framed photo of our ultrasound, I think my MIL who loves tea and snowman got a nice unique snowman mug made by some local pottery crafts people in our area, my brother and sister in law got this beer they love that you can only get in the south, my SIL and MIL both got these awesome wire wrapped amethyst necklace pendents that my husband made out of stones we dug out of a local mine, stuff like that.  Which reminds me, we need to start getting on that stuff for this year.

Anyways I was super not careful about this stuffed dreidel they sent us even though the dogs eat everything stuffed they get their hands on...and they ate it not surprisingly they ate the handle off, so not it's more of a ball than a dreidel (and not safe for babies cause stuffing is falling out). And now I'm like "Was that some unconscious passive aggressive thing on my part because I don't want my daughter playing with a stuffed dreidel and getting to like jewish culture?"



Baby's first jewish cultural indoctrination: The dreidel toy shortly before it's death

In addition to the dreidel toy they sent us a whole bunch of (not judaism related) baby books, a big plastic dreidel filled with chocolate coins (For the grownups I'm assuming), a foam menorah baby toy that she is too young to play with (it says age 3+), and a bib that says "Baby's first channukah" that I took pictures of her wearing yesterday morning but feel ambivalent about her wearing today. Also 2 books about chanukah- one that I remember from when I was a kid that's about a girl who has the same first name as me (same copy) and one that is a baby pop up book about the holiday. I read through it and it doesn't seem to have anything offensive, it mostly talks about the tradition, the only thing about the history is that judah the macabee defeated the greeks which I guess is technically historically accurate?  But I haven't read it to her and I'm not sure that I will.

Meanwhile I called my mom a couple of nights ago- first time I called her directly in probably over a year.  And we talked for a while. Mostly I called her because after driving 13 hours each way to my sister in law's wedding last month (which we still haven't unpacked from), we've decided to spend Thanksgiving at home with just the 3 of us, making our first ever family holiday.  And I wanted some of my mom's  recipes because if we're going to start making our own family traditions, I want to make my mom's thanksgiving stuffing dammit (I also wanted to make chestnuts but for some reason the store only had the ones in jars).  Anyway me and my dad are supposed to skype later this morning and she reminded me 3 or 4 times to make sure it's not "too late" ie. when my bitch aunt is probably going go be there.  Awesome.  

I feel like if my aunt was dead, or a little less of a bitch,  oh and I guess my grandfather would probably have to stop being such a jerk in this scenario too, B and C and I would all be up in NJ right now, celebrating our daughters first thanksgiving AND chanukah.  Or at the very least, we would be skyping much later today, when everyone is over, so that my grandparents (who don't own a computer) could at least see their new great granddaughter. Who in this scenario, would be happy to see her. The way last month, her great grandmother on B's side was super happy to meet her, and during my sister in law's wedding, C was passed around by her grandmother, great grandmother and all her great aunts all night so B and I could have a night off of getting tipsy. The way normal families behave when a new member joins in.  Fortunately B also has a big family, although I wish we lived closer to them.  After the wedding last month, I'm seriously contemplating going on the job market again next year and making another run at finding a job in the midwest for 2015. 

Last night as I watched my facebook page light up with pictures of all my jewish friends who have had babies this year, for a minute I seriously contemplated going up into the attic, where I think my old menorah is- in some box I imagine my great great grandchildren finding one day and being like "OMG we didn't know our great great grandmother the famous sociologist was also a jew! - and digging it out to light for my daughter's first chanukah or whatever.  But talking to my mother reminded me that I really do not want to get my daughter into a religion that makes her own family treat her like a pariah.  Hence my ambivalence.

Friday, November 22, 2013

OTD mom realization of the day

The love I feel for my daughter has something in common with the love I feel for my husband, and the love I felt for 1 or 2 past boyfriends,  that it does not have in common with any way I ever remember feeling towards my parents. 

I think it's been so long since I've truly loved my parents that I can't even remember what it felt like.  I can't remember any time that I didn't feel hurt by them, they've been douching it up since I was around 14 because of religion (which is when I first started going OTD) and now I'm 31.  I always was desperate for them to love me and be nice to me, but I don't think I ever genuinely liked them and wanted to be around them at the same time. Like the way I always want to hang out with B and C.  I haven't been to my parents house (a place I no longer call "home") in over 5 years now, and even when I was going there, I was always leaving as quickly as I could to avoid them as much as possible

My dad has actually been super cool lately compared to what he is normally like, and is warm again in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of the relationship I can at this point barely remember us having before I was a teenager...but he is still distant and douchey in some ways because of religion every once in a while.  My mom is just distant, the last time I talked to her was when they were here when C was 3 weeks old (She is now 17 weeks old).  Maybe I will suggest to my dad that we skype on Thanksgiving or something (although maybe they will be having a big party of all the people who don't know C exists so they won't want to skype with us).  This Thanksgiving will be 2 years since me and my mom supposedly 'reconciled' when I called her after 3 years of not talking.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Advice to women about to have their first baby

As of today C is 15 weeks old!  This week was a very exciting week in C-ville.  On Tuesday she came with us to vote in her first election (well, I chose the candidates, but she helped push the button that said "vote"!).  And then when we came home from elections, I put her down on the floor for some tummy time, and she flipped over for the first time!  It was crazyness! Both me and B saw it, which was awesome.   One minute I was looking  at the back of her head, the next minute I could see her face! And then she did it 3 more times in a row- we managed to get a video of the 4th time (Seen here) which was the first time she flipped over to the right instead of the left. After the 4th time that day she just started crying hysterically when we put her back on her belly, but she's turned over around 4 more times total in the 2 days since then.  She also pretty much started laughing this week, and B spent about 10 minutes yesterday making faces at her so she would laugh.  Speaking of B, today is his 30th birthday!!  Yay! I'm no longer hooking up with a 20-something undergrad at my college (since B goes to my college now and is in a post-bacc program there)!

Two weeks ago B's sister got married in St. Louis. With C it took us about 13 hours to drive each way (We decided driving would be a better idea than flying with a 3 month old), but she was surprisingly chill in the car the whole time.  The day after we got back she had a meltdown every time she had to go in the carseat though.    It was a really lovely non-religious ceremony.  Me and the groom (now my brother in law) got to talking about how when I met B's sister she was working in a church, and it was interesting how their ceremony was completely not religious- and he was like "yeah when I first met her she was working for a church too, and that's why we didn't start dating until many years later!"  Ha! The more I learn about my new brother in law (who I've only met 5-6 times at this point) the more I think we will get along. :)

While we were there C also took a trip to the St Louis zoo with her second cousin, whose name also starts with a C come to think of it. :)  They were freakin adorable together, with cousin C constantly kissing her on the cheek and trying to hold her hand all day.  It makes me sad we don't live in the midwest so C can spend more time with her second cousins, since she has no first cousins yet, and her other second cousins (on my side) either live in Israel, or are part of the group of cousins in NYC who apparently are not allowed to know she exists.   Maybe I will apply to some jobs in the midwest next year again..I'd only move for a job that was as good or better than the one I have now in terms of salary and research productivity (I'm at an R2, would move to another R2 or an R1 but not down to a non-research focused university) but if I could find a job like that in the midwest that would probably be ideal.  Ideal for C at least, I hate the cold and love the warm weather down here, but I could probably sacrifice the awesome weather/long growing season and our sweet house if C could grow up closer to her cousins..as long as I didn't have to sacrifice my career too.  :) It's probably just speculation anyway, the chance of getting a job at a university that is as good as mine that ALSO is right near B's family is pretty small at this point given that there are a very limited number of schools of that caliber, and most are not hiring sociologists at all, let alone sociologists in my specific subfield- there are probably less than 5 jobs that fit that criteria (hiring someone like me/as good as or better than my school in terms of salary/research productivity) that are posted nationally each year.

Speaking of C's second cousins, yes I send that letter to my aunt (her great aunt).  And my aunt never wrote back. But I also CCed a copy to my dad, and it led to us having a very honest and open conversation about how me getting married has affected all of us, and how a lot of that is the fault of my douchey aunt who wants to keep me and my husband a secret from her kids and grandkids.  It turns out my aunt made my mom cry by basically saying something similar to her (she can't tell my cousins about me getting married/having a kid) and I think in a way that's gotten my dad much more on our 'side.'  It's ridiculous that my aunt is making people choose 'sides' at all.  But whatever, if she wants to be a bitch that's her problem. I grew up not knowing a whole bunch of my second cousins very well for various geographic/family fight issues, so C can too I guess. Sigh.

Anyway getting back to the original point of this blog post, which was that I also saw B's cousin N at the wedding, who is expecting her first child in January. And we got to talking as new moms/about to be new moms do, all about the experience of giving birth and having a new kid. Which made me think it might be nice to share some tips I have for new moms, based on my recent experiences as an "experienced" (ha!) mom of a 3 month old.

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Advice to women about to have their first baby

Regarding the birth:
Don't be too obsessed with any birth plan you come up with, cause things will change on the ground.  My birth plan was "avoid an epidural as much as possible, must ask B at least 3 times to get one,  avoid an IV until medically necssary (I have something called a "hep lock/saline lock"for the first two hours I was in the hospital, which is where they put the needle in your arm but don't hook you up to an IV- that way it's there if they need it, but you aren't hooked up to a bunch of wires at first), donate cord blood if possible."

Before I gave birth I was a bit obsessed with the idea of having a natural birth and learned all sorts of breathing/pain management techniques to avoid pain meds. I also was secretly terrified of having an epidural- my birth class teacher made it seem really scary by describing huge needles going into your spine, etc.  At the same time, I think it was this kind of  'macho' (ladies version)  idea I had- that I could tough it out, that I could give birth without any pain meds and come out the other end being like "I did it!  I didn't need meds! I'm awesome!"  Hey, I have gotten around 8 piercings over the years, and I thought those hurt a lot, I used to donate blood on a regular basis which requires lots of needles, I think of myself as a tough lady, so I thought I could totally deal with it.  I went into labor 90% sure I would not have an epidural. Even when we got the hospital (after 34 hours of labor) and they asked if I wanted one (they were not pushy at all despite scary movies telling you all hospital staff is evil) I turned them down at first.  Eventually I got it, and girl, it was AWESOME.  I went from rocking back and forth in pain not being able to talk,panting/moaning incoherently , having 10 minute contractions, to getting the epidural (which didn't hurt at all) to blogging, calling my parents to tell them I was in labor, and even trying to take a nap! (although I didn't really succeed cause I was too excited to sleep).  I think it was good to wait as long as I could take it so I could progress as far as I did on my own (6 centimeters) but don't  feel bad if you have one, they are great.

By the way, the epidural takes around 10 minutes to kick in, and lying down makes it kick in faster, even if it hurts (I couldn't lie down at first for around 3 minutes after I got it because I was still having super painful contractions and it hadn't kicked in yet).  Strangely, after you give birth you remember being in pain but the memory of what it felt like went away really quickly, like some kind of strange amnesia..i can remember being in pain but not really what it felt like anymore. 

Get an ipad/smart phone app for timing your contractions and time them when you first think you are going into labor.  Don't call the doctor until they are 5 minutes on average for at least 1-2 hours or you are in so much pain that you feel like you have to go. The doctor will say 5 minutes *regularly* but my contractions never got regular, even when I was in the hospital after my water had broken.  I had false labor 3 times where I was sure I was in labor but my contractions stayed around 12 minutes apart (by the way there are no such thing as fake contractions- they are all real contractions, just some space out, and when you are actually in labor they get closer together and more painful). Then when I actually went into labor my contractions were 12-30 minutes apart for around 14 hours before getting 12 minutes apart for like 8 hours...I didn't end up feeling in enough pain to go to the doctor until around 30 hours after first starting to have contractions.I would say to put off going to the hospital as long as possible.

Definitely eat something before you go to the hospital because once you are there they won't let you eat anything real- at my hospital they had like clear broth and ices and juice but that was it. But you'll probably want something light because you'll be having contractions and feeling kinda nauseous. The first day I was in labor I ate normally and had a somewhat light dinner (IIRC it was spinach and cheese quessadillas with guacamole).  Right before I went to the hospital I had a muffin and a strawberry/banana/kefir/OJ smoothie.

Definitely get the mirror when you're giving birth.   You don't want to miss seeing that, it's only a once or twice in a lifetime opportunity for most of us, and even though it's gross, it's freakin amazing.

The birth is only 1 day, don't think about it so much that you forget to plan for what happens afterwards (like a wedding!)

Things to do prior to giving birth: 
Definitely make some easily re-heatable food and freeze it so that when you get back from the hospital you have something easy and hearty to eat in between/after when people bring you food. I know some people who just make double of everything they cook for the month before they give birth and freeze the second one, and that's not a bad idea if you have the freezer space and time.  I have limited freezer space, but I made about a gallon of broccoli cheddar soup and a few pounds of meatballs that could easily be reheated + a bunch of stuffed shells that just needed to be sauced and stuck in the oven. Also stock up on things that you can eat when you have 2 seconds in between the baby crying and crying again, like granola bars /protein bars and maybe those protein/smoothie drinks, because there will be times that you are starving (nursing makes you starving) and have nothing easy to make and you'll want something.  I was not well prepared for this and ended up eating a ton of ice cream bars because they were high calorie and I could eat them really quickly...and I gained back basically all the weight I lost from giving birth in the month or two after giving birth.

If people ask if you want handmedowns, say yes, even if they are boys clothes (baby girls like blue too!)! If people offer to throw you a baby shower, say yes! If people ask if you need help with anything after the birth, really, say, "yes, I would love to see you a week or two after giving birth, maybe you can stop by to visit for around an hour, and i wouldn't be upset if you brought along some food with you."  It's weird to ask for help, but ask for it.  Ask for food especially.  Right after birth people might pop up asking if they could come by and if they can bring anything (Random work colleagues, other moms especially).  Say yes, always ask for food if they ask if they can bring anything, and schedule people bringing food to come every 2-3 days because you will probably have leftovers and you don't want those to build up (plus you don't want to have too many visitors at first).

Buying all the stuff you need for new babies can be overwhelming. Have a recent mom friend look over your baby registry (and definitely register- people will want to buy you stuff.I used this list of things to register for: http://www.lucieslist.com/ .  I especially recommend the velcro swaddlers- get the 4-6 month size because you can use them as early as 2 months, and before that they are small enough to swaddle in a small baby blanket like the kind they have at the hospital.

 Don't register for clothing since you'll get more than enough of that as gifts both before and after you give birth.  Don't buy any newborn clothes if you can help it, you will probably get more than enough as gifs/handmedowns, and newborns don't need too many clothing changes because they can't really move without you holding them, and they don't drool that much yet. If you do end up needing to buy any clothes, shop consignment- it's not worth the money to buy new clothes that they will only wear 3 times before they grow out of it, when there is perfectly good clothes for sale that have only been worn 3 times!  Footie pajamas with zippers, not snaps, are the best for cold weather, short sleeves onesies and later rompers are great for warm weather. Remember they will be different sizes at different seasons so buy things of the appropriate season.

Every mom I know swears by the ergo baby carrier.  We didn't bother with the newborn insert- we used a rolled up blanket  (here's a Video that shows you how) We did get this before giving birth and used it when she was around 2 weeks old to go on walks to the park.  Speaking of which, don't overdo it too much right after giving birth- that walk to the park when she was 2 weeks old was too much and I couldn't walk for like a day afterwards. So we got that prior to her being born.

You'll need more burp clothes than you think. Hold off on buying a lot of pacifiers and bottles until you figure out which types they like. Although do buy the large size bottles that plug into your breast pump (which you should also get before giving birth) for storage of breast milk.

After birth/at the hospital:
Breastfeeding is hard and there is a learning curve both for you and the baby since neither of you really knows what you are doing at first. if there is a lactation consultant at your hospital who talks to people right after giving birth, definitely have them come by, because you don't have any idea of what you're doing- I took a breastfeeding class and I still had no clue what I was doing when it came down to it. Also don't be afraid to call a lactation consultant just for reassurance- I did when C was making this weird lip smacking noise the first few weeks she nursed (The LC said it was fine as long as she was gaining weight, which she was, and she eventually stopped).

They have this water spray bottle thing at the hospital- fill it with warm water and spray it on yourself while you are peeing.  If you have to get stiches (like I did) they will sting really badly if you pee without diluting the pee with water at the same time. But you only have to do that for a few days, it heals really quickly.

In the hospital they will probably be stingy with the giant after birth sanitary pads/ice packs/disposable underwear.  Definitely hide some away in your suitcase and ask for more, and if one nurse won't give you more ask another nurse. For some reason one of my nurses was super stingy with the ice pack sanitary pad things, but those are super awesome- I managed to get 4 to take home (and by then I didn't even really need them, they were just awesome).  Also ask for a second bottle of the numbing spray they have to spray on yourself - definitely useful the first couple of days.  Things HURT down there for the first few days after giving birth naturally, especially after the epidural wears off if you have one. :)


After you get home:
If you are taking maternity leave and then going back to work after a few months and hoping to do a mixture of pumping and breastfeeding (like my cousin): Don't introduce bottles right away because they won't breasfeed if you do, but do introduce them by around 3-5 weeks if you want them to take a bottle.  Introduce pacifiers around 3-4 weeks if you want them to use them (they are a blessing and a curse- they are great for when they are young before they can suck on their thumb, but them they get used to them and scream if they fall out until you come and put them back in).  The tommy tippy bottle is good if they won't take a regular one at first. If you use the same kind of bottle all the time at first they will probably only drink from that kind of bottle, but if you vary the type of bottle they might be more willing to drink from different kinds.  Or they might just prefer a specific type of bottle, so try different types if they don't seem to like the first kind.  Same for types of pacifiers (silicone vs. latex, straight nipple vs. orthodontic nipples- C will only use the ones that are latex with the not straight nipple)

When you need to leave the house (Which you'll have to do almost immediately after you get home to go see a doctor) plan to start getting ready to leave 20 minutes earlier than you used to. Maybe even 30 minutes at first

Watch this video on baby language.   I was skeptical at first but it really is accurate and helped me figure out what my baby wants when she's crying

The baby will have several growth spurts where she eats round the clock and you'll think you are running out of milk, but that's normal. C had an especially bad one at 8-9 weeks old.  Think of this as the baby leveling up- at the end of each growth spurt you will either see them physically grow (suddenly clothes that were too big will fit, or with clothes that fit you can suddenly see their wrists/ankles) or they will learn to do something new.  Around 4-6 weeks they will first start waking up and taking notice of the world and they can be very cranky during that time.

Don't have guests over the first few weeks, unless they are bringing you food and staying for an hour or less.  Don't have out of town/overnight guests over the first month and have them stay at a hotel, not in your house. The exception is close family members (parents) but they must first agree to help you- and helping doesn't mean holding the baby while you do a bunch of housework, it means doing the housework while you hold the baby and maybe holding the baby while you take a shower.

Keep track of every gift you get and send a thank you card.  A birth announcement with a handwritten thank you on the back works pretty well.

There are websites where you can get weekly info about what stage your baby is at and what they should be doing that week. They are fun to read but don't feel bad if you fall behind cause it's very easy to do so.
Here are some links:
http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/my-babys-here-now-what-do
http://www.babycenter.com/302_newborn_3658780.bc
http://pregnant.thebump.com/baby-month-by-month.aspx?MsdVisit=1

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