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 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 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.

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: .  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:

Any tips to add readers?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

10 years

10 years ago right around this time of year, my life was in total flux. I was living in NYC and in the process of applying to 10 different phd programs all over the country, and had no idea where I would be living the next year, let alone in the long term. That was right around when me and my ex fiance, who I had been dating for 4 years, parted ways. I had just been laid off from what turned out to be the last non-academic job I would have, and had recently started working on my first paid research gig, while finishing up my last year of college. I was just starting to meet some of my hippie friends who I would turn out to spend a lot of my 20s hanging out with, and right around then was when I stopped keeping kosher altogether, after having only eaten kosher food my entire life. I also 'came out' as no longer being orthodox jewish to my family, and stopped attending orthodox services around that time.

Since then, I moved to Philly, lived in a some horrible apartments, had several questionable romantic entanglements, went to around 25 music festivals and probably around 150-200 shows, grew dreadlocks for a year, stopped being religious entirely, met my husband, moved in with him, got married, somehow accumulated 2 dogs and 3 cats, finished my phd, got a job as an assistant professor, moved to the South of all places, bought a sweet house, and a few years later had a baby girl.

What a long strange trip it's been...
Webcam Selfie in my dorm room in Manhattan, around 10 years ago

 Halloween 2004 with a friend from grad school,on a weekend trip to the NYC Halloween Parade
 Halloween 2013

Me with dreadlocks and my friends N and J at the Gathering of the Vibes music festival at around 3am after drinking several mojitos, NY, August 2006

Me and J after both being up at 3am the night before trying to put our kids (aged 3 months and 11 months) back to sleep, my place, October 2013