Thanks for the memories???

A post in honor of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month…

I was going through my pictures & came across one that made my heart do a little jump. It was of me & my son, T, cuddled together on the couch. He’s smiling sweetly. I’m also smiling, but I have a foggy look in my eye. My face is a bit puffy. 

One look at the date & time confirmed what I had guessed from the glazed look on my face: this picture had documented something I didn’t really want documented. My second miscarriage. 

Why had my partner wanted to take a picture of us that day? Why did I let him?

My smile looks like it was a compromise. As if, I was happy in that moment to be holding my son, but still overwhelmingly sad. 

Mine was a missed miscarriage, but the miscarriage had already happened by the time my partner snapped that little picture. I remember sitting on the couch that week a lot. I didn’t want to be in bed. I just wanted to sit, still & empty in our living room. 

Revisiting that time, prompted as I’ve been by that picture to contemplate my second miscarriage, has been emotional in its own right. 

It feels like it happened long ago & yet my memories are still vivid. I remember the time before, during & after the miscarriage itself. And strangely (thankfully), some of my most vivid memories are actually good ones. Like going to see the Sponge Bob Square Pants movie in 3-D (yes, we did) on Valentine’s Day with my partner & son. We also went to our favorite little restaurant & ran into dear friends. We quietly shared our news. They were sorry for us & sensitive. 

Yet, in revisiting the memories, the pain & grief bubble. The echos of emotions that are forever etched into my mind & heart. A lump comes to my throat as my eyes tear up. 

Those emotions are raw & have changed who I am today… The woman, mother, daughter, friend, sister, cousin I was has been transformed into someone more

I have my “rainbow” baby, but the depth of that hopelessness I felt (even in the moments I knew that was an irrational emotion in light of all that was good & whole in my life) cannot fail to leave scars. 

That second miscarriage challenged my understanding of the world, of myself. At the time, it was hard to believe that anything would turn out alright. 

Now, I know that I am not me without those emotional scars. I am here. I am strong.

Sometimes people remark on the age difference between my children. It’s a big gap. A gap where we thought someone else would be. But I know how these things go… If there were someone else, we wouldn’t be here. It’s easy to be okay with that now that we have the baby. But it was a painful journey nonetheless. 

If you are there now, in that hopelessness, know that you are not alone. The echoes that pain are all around you. 

Because one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. 

The commonality of the experience doesn’t make it any less painful (statistics rarely invoke emotional relief) but if one in four also speaks up, we can help ease the pain of our sisters. 

I have forced myself to be open & matter of fact about my miscarriages so that I can be a source for others. Carry the torch, my sisters. You are all strong & beautiful!

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Back to school blues

Day one; grade unknown.


I have a confession to make: I have not dropped off my son on his first day back to school for going on at least four years. I didn’t even do it when I was on maternity leave last year. 

This fact is another on my list of reasons I’m glad I’m not active on Facebook or Instagram. Because I know what it looked like a week or so ago: moms (almost always it’s moms, not dads) posting pictures of their well-dressed children, smiling & holding hand-drawn signs announcing the year their child is entering this year. 

It’s not that these photos make me feel guilty per se, it’s just that they announce, to me, a gulf in mom-ness that I will never bridge. 

Social media has entrenched a part of mom culture that I just have never connected with. It’s the sentimentality of firsts. The over sharing of our children’s images. 

This particular first (the first day of school) also has deep ties to commercialism & consumerism, which makes me run away screaming in a knee-jerk reaction. 

Don’t get me wrong, we do privately document the first day of the new school year. I’m indoctrinated at least that much. 

But also, the transition back to school is a big deal to our kid. Starting a new academic year. Getting back to his friends & not-so-much friends. His work & the structure & the routine. 

It’s such a big deal that it creates a lot of emotional upheaval at our house. 

And for that reason, I think, my son is usually not a willing participant in my attempts to capture the moment with a photo. I usually have to coax him to smile (while complaining that I’m going to be late for work). 

Our #nofilter back-to-school photo this year features my son frowning, dressed in his first-day best (picked by him after I gently explained the problem, generally, with pairing stripes & plaid…) set against a clear blue sky. I got him to smile only after reminding him how much his baby sister adores him. 

I should have foreseen this. The night before presented unexpected challenges for me as a parent. My big kid needed help. I fumbled & grasped for the right things to say, but felt like a complete failure. I could tell we weren’t connecting. 

Big kids have big problems. Some days, I have big hugs, but not big (or the right) words. Our kids of every age deserve & need our parental love, but figuring out how to deliver that love is not always self-explanatory. 

The truth is, my eight-year-old is changing so much that I am scrambling to keep up. Figuring out how he needs me is like chasing a moving target. But it’s not for a lack of trying. No. And I’ll keep trying. He needs me now more than ever. 

Whoever tells you this parenting gig gets easier as they get older is (pretty much) lying. Sure, I may not be hovering over his every move anymore, but it’s not “easier” to be his parent. 

The issues these days seem to be deeper. Which makes them more challenging in many ways. And the solutions to these deep problems require effort & planning. 

But I’m also still trying to convince him that a hug can help lessen the hurt. 

Because sometimes the right words & the solutions will take time. Hugs can help now. My partner helped me realize that. When I’m hurting, he always offers a hug, because in the absence of the right words, human contact with someone you love & trust is as close as we can get to making things better. But it’s hard to accept, even when we’re lucky enough to have someone like that available & willing to try to help ease our pain. 

Trying to convince an older child that your arms can still bring comfort, at a time when they’re starting to peel away from you as the central figures in their lives, is a tricky endeavor. I’m still trying both tactics: hugs and the right words. If I try hard enough, I have to get one right at least. Right?!

In the end, I think it’s also for this reason that I don’t participate publicly in the back-to-school frenzy (be it shopping or posting pictures on social media): My son does not need me to be an active participant in this annual upheaval. He needs me to be a stoic by-stander, ready to give him a hand as necessary. 

And so, I find this fall is the perfect time for me to reflect on how I can be a better, more gentle parent this academic year. 

P.S. We did succeed in finding the right words of support the day after the first day of school. Or, I should say, my partner plucked the right metaphor out of the air. T ended up really connecting with the image of his emotions being like a volcano, with the pressure building until they burst forth. It helped him understand that sometimes we have little control over these moments but that releasing the pressure will eventually help us to feel better. And he did feel a lot better & is now quickly readjusting to the new routine. 

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What to do when you drop the f-bomb…

at your kid & in front of friends?

First: Admit to yourself that you’re an idiot. 

Second: Apologize to your child (who may have gone off to hide) & then apologize to any witnesses (who are probably a bit bewildered & embarrassed for you). You may not get the order right, but eventually do the right thing. Maybe after taking a few moments to yourself. Your apology should probably include an explanation that your child did nothing wrong & your unleashing of foul language was about your own issues (which I guarantee will be a true statement).

Third: Wallow in shame & guilty feelings for the next few days. Maybe apologize again (very briefly so as to not recreate the whole episode for your child & anyone else involved). 

Fourth: Realize that for some perfectly normal reason, your inner rage monster has awoken. Immediately address any emotional trigger or stressor that may be poking the monster. Recognize that your reaction as not acceptable, no matter how much stress or emotional drama you may be experiencing. Take appropriate action (be it deep breathing, yoga, meditation, prayer, excercise, chocolate, spending time in nature, a new to-do list, watching stand-up comedy, etc., etc.)

Fifth: Write about it on the Internet. In the third person so as to not reveal that you are the type of parent who would ever fall so low. (This step is entirely optional.)

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A gift of a different kind

I did finally make it out the door, laden, as usual with pumping equipment & snacks.


The morning started promisingly. I woke up just before my alarm & successfully snuck out of bed without waking the baby. 

For a second, as I descended the stairs to the kitchen, I thought to myself, “How great! I’ll get ready in no time, nurse the baby upon her waking, & be out the door early!” 

But it’s not every morning that I wake without the baby. 

My actual instinct upon entering the quiet kitchen was to tidy up. It’s the kind of productivity that’s impossible with a one-year-old on your hip or under foot. For example: an open dishwasher that invites climbing rather than emptying dishes. 

So I did what any sane working parent would do. Rather than get ready for work, I put away the clean dishes. 

Having accomplished that task & still no sign of small humans being awake, I made myself a well-deserved pot of coffee. I sat down with my steaming mug of coffee and a magazine. And I savored it all. The quiet, especially. (Incidentally, I read the new Harper’s & Seyward Darby’s new article, “The Rise of the Valkyries“, which is terrifying for any woman who has read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.)

A morning like this is a gift, and a rare one at that. 

Eventually, I gathered my things & actually started to prepare to leave for the day. Of course, at that point the baby was awake & on my lap as I tried to nurse, read M’s favorite book, and guzzle the last of my coffee. Oh, and catch up with my partner, who woke up with the baby. 

Our first attempt at nursing (& by first attempt, I mean the first conscious nursing, since we have an open milk bar all night long…) was distracted & so as I was saying my goodbyes, M unsurprisingly gave me the sign for mama milk. … Okay… Hike up my dress, adjust my non-nursing bra & we nurse. Quietly. Staring at each other in the sun-lit room. 

Then my work phone dings & buzzes. A reminder that the early birds in my office have started their work days already & a reality check that this mostly-blissful morning cannot last. Baby M wriggles in my lap, signaling she’s done nursing. I holler at my partner & I’m out the door. 

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Sarcasm in trouble 

Ancient rock for breakfast


I am snarky. IRL. On this blog. I’m irreverent & my sense of humor tends sharply toward sarcasm. 

Pro tip: kids do not get sarcasm. 

Even big kids. Like my 8 year old.

Kids (big & small) are busy making sense of this world every moment of every day. Their brains are categorizing, compartmentalizing, absorbing. It’s all so darn real & immediate. 

So sarcasm is usually lost on them. 

Except it’s not. 

Turns out my son has been observing my sarcasm quietly & taking me at my word. And I need to stop! I’ve known I need to stop forever

One recent morning, I was joking (or so I thought) with my partner, MFA Dad. I threatened to burn his toast in jest. I forgot the exchange all together, but my son did not. 

As we sat down to eat (MFA Dad’s toast perfectly done… or burned entirely by accident… I can’t remember which…) T asked me (all sincerity & seriousness) why people just can’t get along. 

Me: Huh?

T recalled for me my very recent threat to ruin his father’s breakfast. 

Me: Oh. 

So, because of my sarcasm, I’ve basically ruined my son’s sense of loving partnership & human relationships. Probably forever

I explained (& apologized for) my weird sense of humor. I tried to rehabilitate my foibles … 

Truth is, he’s 8 & he’s basically an anthropologist. He is observing human interactions. Testing the limits of love & acceptance. (He also tests this by being a complete jerk & seeking love at the same time… That’s a whole other topic…)

This morning, bleary-eyed with lack of sleep & caffeine, I almost let my snark slip as I made coffee. I caught myself. Instead, I thanked MFA Dad for helping me get ready for work. 

They both deserve more sincerity from me. Not that I’m not sincere. I have my sarcastic moments & I get more sarcastic the more I feel overwhelmed or stressed. It’s definitely a crutch. But I’m also a smother-you-with-love type of parent. Still, in the hustle & bustle of work & parenthood, I realize it is my partner who needs more random kind words. More thanks. 

I can thank T for forcing me to be more present with him & my partner.

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Tips for traveling without your baby (if you’re a nursing mom)

Have pump, will travel


I have managed to avoid overnight separations from Baby M during her first year. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with leaving an infant overnight. It’s just that I am a homebody by nature & will shamelessly gladly use my children as an excuse to not go on a trip that is not baby- or child-friendly.

But, I had a work trip recently that involved only one overnight—hardly long enough to make taking the baby (& the rest of the family or a grandparent to care for baby) a reasonable option. Also, the trip was an important opportunity for networking with colleagues, some of whom I had never met in person, and I knew some of that networking would take place after work hours. So, I decided to brave it alone. I might have looked forward to some solitude, except that I knew I’d have a constant companion: My breast pump.

See, while Baby M is one year old, eats a ton of food & loves drinking water, she also still nurses just as much as she ever has. … And as a result … I’m still pumping at work.

When I left my son for the first time (when he was just around a year old) I was no longer pumping & I traveled by train. I pumped (I think) twice & barely produced a drop (even though my son nursed until he was over four years old).

Baby girl is a completely different story. For whatever reason, I’m still producing a fair amount of milk for the pump, so she’s still drinking mama milk when we’re apart. I also recently had a run-in with a very painful plugged duct. So, pumping would be a necessity.

Can I just say, even though I was prepared for pumping in just about any scenario (including  toting a lightweight blanket in case I had to pump on the plane or in a car), it was a marathon! I don’t think I could take another day!

I was constantly looking at the clock & the meeting schedule to time the least inopportune time to disappear. I usually didn’t have enough time to fully empty my breasts (… or, if I’m honest, my one “good” breast…) & I often had to choose between peeing & pumping (& my fear of another plugged duct means I almost always chose pumping).

That said, I was extremely lucky. Both airports I flew through had nursing/pumping rooms. The TSA Officers I encountered were nothing but professional. The office I was visiting had a pumping room. My hotel installed a fridge for me that was already cold upon my arrival. (And they gave me a spacious room that was far nicer than what I had actually booked.) And my colleagues were patient & understanding. 

Despite the damage to my bladder (hopefully not permanent), I’d say the trip was a success. (Plus, no middle of the night phone calls from my partner & supposedly no tears from baby. I did have to get up to pump at around 3:30 after realizing ol’ righty was over-full … but I expected that.)

Cute wall hanging at one of DFW’s three mother’s rooms!

Here are my tips for traveling with a pump but without your baby:

  • When planning what you will have to pack, consider how much you expect to pump & how you will transport it all. This of course will depend on (a) the length of your trip (e.g. the total number of pumping sessions) & (b) how much you pump in a given session. These factors may be a bit unpredictable, even if you’re a super-pumper. As for (a), you may find that you have to pump more or less often when you’re physically separated from baby. My pump is awesome, but it’s still not quite as efficient as my baby, so I pumped a bit more frequently than I do when I’m just gone for the day to my home office. And as for (b), don’t be surprised if you pump less if you’re having to pump in uncomfortable or unfamiliar places or under the stress of work or being way from baby. In my case, I figured my soft lunch-style cooler would be enough space for such a short trip. If you will have a lot of milk, you should bring a bigger cooler. Or, if you’ll be gone for more than a couple of days, consider shipping your milk. (I met a fellow working-pumping mom in the security line after nervously handing over my little cooler to the TSA Officer & she told me that she had been on a three-day trip & was trying out a service called Milk Stork, which looks pretty nifty! It was so cool to connect with another mom & learn about other options.)
  • Visit the TSA’s website to review what you can & can’t bring through security in U.S. airports. Travel for pumping moms seems to have gotten much easier over the past ten year or so, but horror stories pop up now & then, such as just this June in Denver. Or take a look at this 2016 Vice article for other tales of woe & dumping liquid gold because the TSA messed up. Even with lots of training & at least one legal dispute ending in settlement, it appears that some TSA Officers are not great at dealing with breastfeeding & pumping moms. Like I said, I had a great experience (thank you, Dallas TSA!), as I’m sure most pumping moms do. But it doesn’t hurt to know the rules & know your rights. Print out the TSA policies so you have them, stay calm, & ask to speak to a supervisor if something goes amiss… Though, I don’t know how you stay calm in the nightmare scenarios… 
  • Speaking of the TSA: Pre-Check. Pre-Check! You’ll be dealing with enough if you’re carrying your milk with you through security, why worry about your shoes & other liquids on top of it?
  • Check to see if any airport you’ll be visiting has a nursing or mother’s room. These are surprisingly common now, at least at the bigger airports. I used one of the mother’s rooms at Dallas Fort Worth & was really pleasantly surprised at the quality of the space. It was clearly well-planned & well-appointed, with cute pictures & a log book, full of notes from fellow nursing & pumping moms. How cool!
  • Plan where you’ll pump while at your destination. If you’ll be at a conference, don’t hesitate to contact the organizers to see if there will be a private space for you and/or other mothers who need to pump. Seriously, don’t be shy. Ask for what you need! You may be pleasantly surprised that someone has blazed that trail for you, or you may be setting up the next woman for success. Also, don’t forget to ask about storage options—Will you need to keep ice or ice packs with you at all times or will there be a fridge on site? 
  • Call your hotel & request a cold fridge in your room. Even if your room has a fridge with beverages & snacks, there may not be room for your milk or the fridge might actually not be cold enough to chill (or freeze) your milk.
  • Relax! Make some time for yourself. Download shows or movies to watch while you pump & relax in your hotel room. Visit the hotel spa, or find a yoga class, if you’ll have the time. Say “no” when you need to. (If you’ve already gone out to dinner with clients or colleagues do you really have to go to the hotel bar, too, if you’re feeling worn down?!) I watched Catastrophe & Dr. Who in my hotel room in the evening & I ordered coffee from room service in the morning so I could enjoy a hot cup of coffee in peace… It was amazing! This trip was truly a marathon, so I’m glad I took that time (short as it was) to enjoy my solitude a little bit.

Pumping in comfort before my flight home.


So, what did I bring? 

  • My pump & flanges & other pump parts. Most women recommend bringing extra parts, especially extra valves. That’s not a huge issue with the Spectra pump I use, so I took my chances (plus I stupidly only have one set of pump parts anyway…).
  • Bottles & milk storage bags.
  • Zip-top plastic baggies, both gallon & quart sizes. I use the gallon sized bags to double up on my small milk storage bags & to store my flanges during the day. (I don’t wash them after every pumping session if I can keep them refrigerated.)
  • A hands-free pumping bra. Best thing ever for pumping moms! 
  • Unscented castile soap & a nipple/straw brush for cleaning everything once or twice a day.
  • Unscented baby wipes &/or paper towels for cleaning up drips & keeping everything tidy. Paper towels are also useful for drying your pump parts, laying them out to dry overnight, or placing them on a possibly dirty surface.
  • Hand sanitizer in case you have to handle pump parts without a sink for washing hands. 
  • A bag (or bags) to keep all of the above organized. 
  • Pictures of your baby! No-brainer but consider making an album on your smartphone of your cutest baby pictures.
  • A cooler & quality ice packs. I have a bag with built-in ice packs, but I didn’t want to chance losing that if the TSA didn’t like it. I brought a plain soft-sided cooler (the green one pictured above) & ice packs that I got when I orders some probiotics online a couple years ago (as freebies, I knew I wouldn’t be upset to lose them if they didn’t make it through security. 
  • Healthy snacks & water. 
  • I also brought big Post-It notes & a marker in case I had to create an impromptu “do not enter” sign or label any of my pumping gear. 

With these tips & supplies, your time away from your baby might not be so bad. 

What have I forgotten? How do you cope with pumping on work trip?

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Leaving the little one, redux

Still life, with one-year-old’s toes & eight-year-old’s craft project


Ages ago now, I wrote about leaving my son to take the bar exam. He was almost 2 years old at that point. Prior to that, when he was closer to one year old, I had left him for one night, to visit two of my dearest friends. He is now 8 & those days are long behind us. (Spoiler: He survived.)

Now our youngest family member is a newly-minted one-year-old & I’m gearing up for a work trip. I have to admit, I am nervous. Nervous simply to leave her for more than my normal work day. Nervous to be so far apart. Nervous for the nighttime parenting my partner will have to do without me (& without fully functioning boobs). 

Vaguely nervous that she’ll somehow wean due to my short absence. That I will somehow traumatize her & she’ll hate me forever afterward. 

I’m definitely nervous that I won’t find time & space to pump at our meeting. Nervous that I’ll get another plugged duct. Nervous that I’ll have to spend unnecessary time away from her due to flight delays, etc. 

In reality, I know that she & I will be fine. It is (in the grand scheme of things) a brief separation. 

My son didn’t miss a beat when I left him for those limited times when he was still so young. My daughter’s disposition is quite similar & I’m sure she will be fine with her dad and her grandma and her brother (who I’m certain is her most favorite person in the world…). 

Still, the fact that I love her so much makes me loathe to leave her. And I know she depends on me in ways that are unique from the other caregivers in her life. That’s just a fact of life & biology (mostly biology). 

Plus, the pressure on moms to be ever present is just so persistent! Under normal circumstances, I feel I’m more or less immune to such pressures. At least I like to think I am. But I know that gnawing voice in the back of my head sometimes speaks up, reminding me that I’m not immune to such cultural expectations & stereotypes & pressures that are unique to motherhood. (For example: As a friend reminded me recently, no one asks fathers if they’re returning to work after a baby; that question is reserved for mothers alone. Why? Because moms are expected to stay home during those early years, or at least to want to. Dads? Not so much.)

As an attachment parenting mom, I suppose I’m a bit overexposed to the line of thinking that prioritizes maternal presence over all else. It’s a fallacy that AP dictates an endless physical attachment of mother & child, but that doesn’t stop folks from falling down that rabbit hole. AP or not, I’ve called them out on it before & will do in the future (stay tuned for a review of a new book that makes some pretty silly arguments about maternal-child separation.)

I try to maximize the time I spend in full-on mothering mode, because I know it’s important work. But I also know (like, for a fact know) that some separation is okay, even healthy (particularly if it makes you a happier parent, which will almost always makes you a better parent). (Of course, how much separation is appropriate & when is something only you can figure out. But if you work on honing your baby language skills, you’ll figure it out.)

So, I said “yes” to this trip, which I think will offer important networking & career growth opportunities. Which isn’t to say that I’m particularly looking forward to it. This kind of separation is definitely different from that of our daily routines.

When making the transition back to work after giving birth (whenever that happens to be), I think it’s important to prepare. Practice the hand-off/drop-off routine. Start part-time if possible & increase the length of your work days (& resultant absence) over the course of a couple weeks. In short, make sure dad or grandma or nanny or daycare provider is a part of your baby’s life. 

That said, the goal is not to make your baby independent before he’s ready or to toughen her up. The goal is to gently expand his or her universe in a loving & gentle way. 

In other words, we shouldn’t be afraid of attachment or separation. They are both normal parts of infancy & life. (Heck, that eight-year-old I wrote about leaving so long ago… He was practically in tears when I left for work this morning… Yeah, this shit is never easy.) So, be attached when you’re together. Be comfortable with appropriate bouts of separation. 

As an example, I’ll tell you what I’ve done to prepare baby for my trip: Nothing. 

Well, I’ve made a meticulous list of pumping gear I need to pack. I’ve researched space for pumping at airports & at my destination. I’ve reviewed TSA policies. 

MFA Dad & I talked about him practicing putting the baby to sleep at night, but there was no follow-through. When I’m away, the routine they figure out will be theirs (hopefully with minimal tears). When she knows I’m there, she wants me & I want to cuddle her for nighttime nursing. 

Separation is about more love, not less. It’s not a deprivation. It’s just different. Sometimes we may not like it. They may not like it. But, usually, it’s gonna be okay.

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