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New Rules

When I was a freshman in college, I lived down the hall from an artist. I had never known an artist before– in the sense that I thought it was super cool to have a friend to chat with daily who had smudgy paint fingers, frazzled hair, and no sense of time. I wanted to know people who were artistic because I wanted to be like them. Try as I might, I couldn’t find something to be passionate about, and I thought it would make me a much more interesting person if I could find some kind of art form to obsess over. My ability to go to sleep at 10 p.m., untethered by the demands of creativity made me utterly boring, in my eyes.

I thought, “Art friends can change this!”

Anyway, I befriended this girl and it was dandy. I learned about oil paint and somthing about blending. One time I helped her clean paint brushes, which was really boring, but I told myself it was cool. I didn’t become any more artsy, or any less, but I got to hear what it was like to paint naked people without giggling, so that was cool.

We eventually lost touch, to no one’s fault or intention. We parted ways somewhere throughout the years at school. But of the many things I remember about her, one ridiculous thought has stuck with me for years.

One morning we were walking to get breakfast at the cafe. She looked at me with a furrowed brow and said,

“You know, teal and orange don’t really go together.”

She said this because I was wearing my favorite halter top: neon orange with red and white stripes, and teal flip flops. I bought the flops in California on one of the last really great vacations with my parents (before I became too old and “cool” to want to go on vacation with my parents). And apparently, my color choices didn’t jive.

She said something about color families that I didn’t follow, but I understood the general idea behind her comment: Don’t wear orange and teal together! They clash.

I trusted this thought and carried it with me for years. Not in an obsessive way, but in a quiet, helpful reminder kind of way.

Until today.

I was getting dressed for work and reached for a fun pair of earrings: gold clusters with little coral stones. And then I realized that they were orange. They would not go with my teal pants.

But then I stopped to think. I’ve done this thing for years. I’ve created lists and lists of rules in my mind. I’ve followed directions, suggestions, advice, tips, and lessons from anyone I can find.  I’ve been a human Rolodex for as many great ideas as I can find.

But I haven’t listened to myself enough.

It’s a new year (I know it’s practically summer, but I’m more of a summer person than a winter person, so my year really kicks into high gear when I’ve got sun and heat on my heels), and I’m making changes.

I’m ready to start clashing. Not for the sake of clashing, but because some things that don’t make rational sense feel really good. 

I want to act from a place of feeling good…and see where it gets me.

I know, I know; I sound so transformative. No one cares about earrings or halter tops from 2000. But, seriously, I want to dissolve the repeating narrative that’s been in my head, which has said something like this for over 30 years: Everyone BUT you is correct.  I know that sounds depressing, but I’ve been such a people pleaser for so long that I’ve taken everything to heart.

I know that sounds depressing, but I’ve been such a people pleaser for so long that I’ve taken everything to heart.

And it hasn’t been everyone and their wonderful words and wisdom that has been the problem. When I put on my orange earrings this morning, I realized that the problem has been me. I have misconstrued the point and lost myself along the way.

But every day is a new start. Every morning is an opportunity to create a different, ridiculous mismatch that can make my heart sing. I think this is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it.

What are you looking forward to this week?

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Thinking About Potty Training

LM1 is officially asking questions about the potty, his pee, his poo, and the like. So, we’ve offered him the option of peeing on the potty with a semi-convenient potty seat that sits on top of our normal toilet seat. I don’t know that he’s ready to really, truly, officially be a toilet-trained human, but he is certainly curious…..so I am as well.

The musings this little man has undertaken are….well….toilet humor aside, they’re a gas. Here are some of the questions I’ve received since starting this process:

1.) Q: My poo comes out of a different place than my penis. Why, Mommy?
A: Your pee comes out of your penis and your poo comes out of your butt. They’re different things.

2.) Q: If I will poop in my diaper, can I wipe my butt up here? (He wants to sit on the toilet, bend himself over, and reach his own butt in a c-shape position.)
A: Sure. Here’s a wipe. Be careful and don’t fall through.
Q: Why would I fall through?
A: Ask Alice. I don’t think she expected to fall through, either…

3.) Q: Did you hear me make the twinkly sound with my pee?
A: Yes. I heard the “tinkle,” not the “twinkle.”

4.) Q: How much soap until I’m all clean afterward?
A: No one really knows, so we’ll go with one squirt.

5.) Q: Do you wear pull-ups, too, Mommy?
A: No, I wear underwear. Because I’m a big girl and I can control my pee.

6.) Q: Pull-ups are not the same as underwear. Can I pee in them?
A: They’re like underwear, so try hard not to pee in them.

7.) Q: If I promise to pee in the toilet, can I wear only shorts today?
A: Umm, no, there’s still snow on the ground and you’re not a free-baller. Not on my watch.

8.) Q: I will take off my shirt to use the toilet?
A: You don’t have to. It’s not a requirement.
Q: But I am a man.
A: Ok. Whatever you need, Honey.

9.) Q: Will you put my poop into the toilet?
A: How would I do that? That’s your job.
Q: But it’s in my diaper. You need to put it in the toilet so we can flush it. Ok?
A: Gross.

10.) Q: I made a really really big stink-a-rink. Is that funny?
A: Not really. It’s kind of gross.
Q: I will laugh loud. Will you laugh, too?
A: Maybe at your wedding one day… ;0)

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Second Childhood

They say that having children means living your childhood over again. Only this round, childhood is way better for multiple reasons: (1) This time around, everything is meaningful and special and magical because we can understand the larger picture, (2) We have iPhones and can now photograph everything as it happens, and (3) We are no longer the ones wetting our pants when things get really exciting.

I lived a piece of my second childhood over the weekend and thought to share. Here’s what happened…

My mother and step father found a race track for my oldest son and surprised him with their discovery this weekend. The track is one of those old-school electrical kinds. Squeeze a gun and the little cars race around a track of your own making. It was a used set, so there was some technical difficulty to navigate at the gate.
cars“They don’t make toys like this anymore. Toys are chintzy crap most of the time now,” my step father said. “This find is a gem.”
“But it’s busted,” my sister said, “that’s not a gem if it’s broken.”
“Someone gave it away for a reason,” my mother said. “Any anyway, who makes a race track for only two cars?”
“Give it a minute,” my husband said.
My son sat in amazement of the whole scene. He didn’t care whether anything was working or broken because he can’t tell the difference. All he knew were cars in front of him. Cars he was allowed to play with. And the best part was that the set included a red car and a black car: his favorite colors.
I sat in amazement of the whole scene, too, but in a different way. Here were four grown adults, completely distracted from their cell phones, encroaching dinner time, scheduled programming on television, etc. They were instead fixated on the need to get a toy working, or to make fun of the fact that, maybe, it wouldn’t work at all. They were invested in the fun of simplicity and a boy’s potential to see its magic for the first time. For lack of any better wording, it was awesome. It was just the best thing I could imagine doing on a Friday night, after everyone had changed out of their work clothes and came to be in the same living room at the same time.
In the end, they got the toy to work. Something about flint or metal at the bottom of the toy cars and some sand paper and maybe a little fairy dust. I have no idea what they did, but they got the thing going. The cars whizzed around the track after some practice with the gun’s trigger.
My son was excited when the cars finally got going, but I think he actually preferred to push the cars around on his own. Everyone laughed and I felt thankful to have shared something as basic as a busted give-away.
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On Instincts

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes

I was listening to Shonda Rhimes on Fresh Air last week and really enjoyed learning what she had to say. You can listen here, or check it out from the NPR app.

My mother has been a long-time lover of Shona Rhimes because she is fascinated by a woman who committed herself to writing and promised herself she’d make it, come hell or high water. I didn’t know much about Rhimes, myself, but after listening to the podcast, I can tell why she’s become successful. She seems like a no-nonsense woman who knows herself more than anything else, and that has made a huge difference for her.

I really loved when Rhimes spoke on the value of “listening to her instincts.” I more often hear the phrase “go with your gut,” but I don’t know that this phrase means exactly the same thing. Rhimes was talking about sticking to her convictions, listening only to her heart, even when it means going against the grain. While the interview did not quite make this distinction between instinct and gut reactions, Rhimes made me consider things that struck a chord for me.

Maybe I am a woman of my generation, trapped by all the same things my friends often talk about. There is just too much going on to settle my mind and try to think about what my instinctual self wants, needs, or requires in order to feel peaceful, etc. I hear this all the time: “We need time to slow down so that we can hear ourselves think!” At least, that’s why my favorite yoga instructor, Joe, seems to tout all the time. I trust Joe, too, because he has a ponytail and an indistinguishable faded tattoo on his ankle. But the more thought I have given to this, the more I think that instinct is, possibly, something completely different from having the time to clear your head and think.

I have made one decision in my life that I call completely instinctual: marrying my husband and going where ever that would lead us. There was never a doubt in my mind that he was the guy for me and that everything would somehow work out so long as I said “YES!” to loving him unconditionally. What’s possibly the most interesting part about welcoming him into my life is the great move I made to Pennsylvania. It was unexpected, life-changing, and transformative. But the most interesting part is this: I never had to think about it. My instincts knew it was the right decision and that it would always be the right decision. I didn’t have to ponder its effects or outcomes. I didn’t have to build a pro and con list. I just KNEW inside myself that it would lead to my greatest joys, and it has.

So, while I’m sure it will be beneficial to quiet my mind and give myself time to quiet all the NOISE in my life, I am curious to see where and when decisions can present themselves without the need for thought or contemplation at all. I’ve got my eyes open (or I guess my instincts) for the things that naturally fall into place because my heart knows they’re right.

I wonder what will come…

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Why I Love Book Club

I had the most revelatory moment at my book club last week and thought to share. First off, I love my book club because I love to read and I love to talk about books. That’s obvious enough, I guess. But, that being said, it’s pretty hard for me to leave any book club night feeling disappointed. The conversation is always engaging, rife with dissent, and jovial by night’s end. I think this has a lot to do with our group leader and the delicious cookies provided, but who knows, maybe we are all just really nice people.

toibinI was so excited to attend last month’s club because we were discussing Colm Toibin’s Nora WebsterIf you’ve never read Toibin (as had been the case with me) you’d be happy to learn he’s quite the accomplished author, with awards and accolades out the wazzoo. The man was also dubbed one of Britain’s top intellectuals in 2011. If that’s not a testament to someone’s importance, I don’t know what is. The guy is smart– brilliant even. He knows his stuff and manages to entertain his readers while making a point. It’s safe to say I loved his book and immediately returned to my fav book shop, Wellington Square Bookstore, for more of his writing. (I picked up The Master.)

I was ecstatic to discuss Toibin’s genius and was shocked to discover I was one of only three women who actually liked the book (I will note that the three of us “loved” the book— so that’s pretty cool). Readers complained that the book didn’t go anywhere. They griped that events did not fuel larger plot points, the protagonist appeared unchanged over time, and the writing style was dry. I saw none of these issues in my reading of the text and found it quite lively and entertaining, poignant and significant. It told the story of Nora, a widow of two young sons, who slowly transforms into her greatest self, standing at the helm of a ship she never hoped to sail alone. For a great review, check out Jennifer Egan’s review in the NY Times here. The novel is delicately nuanced with details that struck me as meaningful, insightful, and frighteningly realistic. I was so impressed with the work I couldn’t stop praising after I’d finished.

But the revelation I mentioned earlier was not in the liking or the hating of the book. I’m often the odd man out in a crowd. I like things that folks don’t– which is probably why I can discount shop (I like the stuff everyone else disregarded long enough for it to go on mega clearance). What struck me was the judgement calls made among readers in our discussion. Many were disappointed in the character’s actions and reactions. Comments were made such as these:

  • “That’s not how a widow acts…”
  • “How could she treat her children that way?”
  • “I would never behave as Nora did! It was so unrealistic!”
  • “I kept waiting for Nora to behave like a real widow and have that breakdown we all have. Where was the breakdown? I didn’t see any of her real emotion!”

I found these comments to be completely fascinating. I asked myself things like: What is a widow supposed to act like? How is she supposed to behave? How is she supposed to treat her children? Why, if someone does not behave the way you would, does this make her actions difficult to believe?

I recognize that in a book club, these are the things that get stirred up. We are asked to examine characters as if they are real people, and come to conclusions and emote feelings about those conclusions. But what I witnessed in book club was a lot of harsh judgement calls. I felt sorry for our poor protagonist! She was getting so much heat, and for what? For grieving the loss of her husband and learning to live a new life without him. Some readers thought Nora Webster was supposed to transform into some super hero who could show us all how it’s done. Instead, Nora was a very real person with a lot of living and learning left in her. And while she didn’t handle all of that with grace, she certainly handled it with dignity, so far as I could tell.

What made me feel especially pensive following our book club was the fact that everyone’s judgments were so well-formed and well-developed. These folks knew how they felt and why they felt such ways. They had reasons and rationales and all kinds of “detailed evidence to support their claims” as we might say in a classroom setting. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, so long as it’s well supported, and this seemed to be the case at book club.

My revelation, however, was simply that we all create and hold expectations for behaviors and actions that are sometimes so set in stone that they lead us away from appreciating other components in any given scenario. Some readers seemed so blinded by the ways in which expectations were unmet that they failed to see some of the more beautiful components of the novel– and the more beautiful pieces of Nora. This made me think of the things that I haven’t liked, or the people I haven’t liked, or the situations that have made me feel bad or upset. I wondered if they were really all that bad, or if my opinions were, in fact, tainted by my expectations and judgments.

So……thank you, book club! You continue to amaze and impress with the conjuring of thought you manage at every turn. And to you book lovers out there— consider Nora Webster for your next read. She may surprised you if you’re willing to give her a chance.

 

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Dear Back Fat

Dear Back Fat,

Tell yourself what you want. This is not cute. I'm not down. We can't be friends. GTHO.

Tell yourself what you want. This is not cute. I’m not down. We can’t be friends. GTHO.

I don’t know who invited you. I know it’s rude to even say that to you, but it’s the truth, and I feel compelled to at least ask why you’ve come around. I mean, I don’t want to make friends with you, but you’ve been around long enough now that I feel we can talk honestly and have an open conversation about the truth of things.

Your nickname “muffin top” is a real crock. I’m not trying to be mean– just sticking with the honesty thing here. I don’t know how to tell you this, but when people call you “muffin top” instead of “back fat,” they’re not giving you a pleasant, cuter nickname. You’re not sweet and delicious like a muffin. No one wants to wear you like a top. You’re a nuisance. You are the symbol of older age that many women fear and fight against with the help of Jillian Michaels and Denise Austin.

But let’s bring it back to the facts here. So, you think you’re here for a good reason. I’m pregnant and gaining weight in the tummy region. I get it. You’re hoping to make your presence a balancing factor. I need something back there to help balance out what I’ve got going on in the front, right? Wrong. You’re making me feel a lot worse about being pregnant than ever before. My potential for back pain is not nearly as bad as the insecurities you’re instilling deep into the folds of my– well, my back, and my heart, if you want to know the truth. Why, why, why do you think you’re here for good purposes? Who lied to you when you were just doughy batter, on your way to plumping up into a muffin?

Look, let’s make a compromise. I’ll give you a temporary stay. Like a sublet apartment situation. Or like an Airbnb kind of thing. You can stay for a short while, but I’ll plan on your leaving at some time next spring. You can leave a mess– like any other Airbnb weekender. I get that. You can’t always clean up after yourself. But I plan to eradicate you. Or evict you. Or whatever other analogy you want to use. I will use barbells and stretches and yoga and jogging and aerobics and anything I can think of. Just know that we are not friends and you can’t stay forever. You are not the symbol of a “Rites of Passage” experience in my life. Sorry. But you’re not.

Best wishes in your future endeavors– the ones that take you elsewhere– to torment other people who are prayerfully not me.

Love,

Kim

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How to sell a mattress

The hubs and I are in the market for a new mattress. Our first king sized– which is very exciting for the man whose legs are so long they’ve been hanging off the bed for far too many years. We live pretty close to a few mattress stores, so we mapped out our afternoon and decided which spots to hit. We knew Memorial Day weekend would mean some sales and discounts, so it seemed like the thing to do between bbqs and fun in the sun. 

I worked in a sales role for a few years, and though I didn’t get a ton of formal training, I’m pretty sure I know enough to not turn off customers the way we were this weekend. Things started off well. Enough. We met a salesman (whom we’ll call Bob) and he gave us the rundown of mattress brands and some of the differences between coil count and plushness. The situation was going well enough until the real “seal the deal moment” was upon us. Even as a consumer you know when this moment is coming. It’s your last chance to make a great impression before someone either buys from you or walks out the door. 

My husband and I thanked the salesman for his time and assistance. Then we said that we were going to shop around and make a decision later in the weekend. 

“Now why would you do that?” he said. 

“What?” I said.

“Shop around. If you found something you like and you know it’s what you want, what do you need to shop around for?”

“Because I like to be an informed consumer,” I said. 

“I’m going to spend over a grand on a mattress; I’m going to lie down on at least a dozen mattresses before I buy one,” my husband added.

Our friend the salesman said “ok.”

I asked some more questions about delivery and availability. Then I asked the store hours for Memorial Day Monday. 

“10-9,” the sales said. 

“Oh, I’m sorry,”I said. “That’s rough.”

“No,” he replied, “what’s rough is working with customers who say they’ll come back to buy and then they never do.”

The guy had done so well assisting us. He was kind and knowledgable. He was friendly with my small son, who was just waddling around and bugging other customers. He was even going o throw in a free delivery. But I don’t need to be threatened or made to feel guilty about where or how I go about buying my mattress. It’s so silly. They say that 75% of a sale is determined by emotions. It’s all about the connection made with a a salesperson. As much as I like to think I can be more objective than that, I can’t help myself in this situation. I won’t buys mattress from that guy based on on thing he said to me. And I feel guilty about it…but just not guilty enough to reconsider. 

Sales approach: fail.

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What Success Looks Like 4 A New Mom

Well, life has changed in so many ways since becoming a mama. Aside from the obvious sleep deprivation, heart elation, and general joyfulness, I have learned that simpler pleasures are now easier to appreciate. Here are some of the things that now bring me great joy:

1.) A few minutes to shop on eBay. I suddenly feel excruciatingly guilty about spending money on myself for frivolous little things. I think to myself, “how many boxes of diapers can I get for this overpriced blouse?” My once Catholic guilt has been traded for mommy guilt, and as a result, I question every purchase with the scrutiny of an apostle. eBay has proven itself as solution to this new struggle. I can buy a top for $7. Sometimes shipping is free! That sure beats shopping at Anthropologie or Ann Taylor. And I feel like I’ve somehow cheated the retail Gods at their cruel, cruel game.

2.) A few minute to talk about anything besides the color of my son’s BMs with my husband. Believe it or not, we actually stop mid conversation when we realize we’ve made it a few minutes without referencing diapers, diaper cream, digestion, or the color of poopies. I think we’re getting better at this each day.

3.) Four consecutive hours of sleep. Imagine that! Every other mom or dad who has dealt with sleep deprivation to the max know what I’m talking about here. If we make it a good couple of hours, it feels like an accomplishment. I thank my son for the time and try to ignore the fact that I used to sleep 14 straight hours when I was in college. Hangovers were at least a great excuse to sleep all day long. I remember those days fondly. But when I get four hours, I pat myself on the back and tell myself that the bags under my eyes shrank by a millimeter.

4.) Days when I coordinate my jewelry and outfits. I used to do this everyday. It sounds vain and stupid, but I love coordinating things. Nowadays, I have become one of those moms who wears sneakers and activewear because if my son spits up, the clothes clean easily and I can easily yank out a boob when he’s hungry. On the special days that I wear something a little less active and a little more like my old self, I smile. “Damn girl!” I think when I find that my earrings match my blouse. “You still got it!” I don’t always still got it, but every once in a while, I look a bit more like my twenty-something self.

5.) When I responded to my emails. This used to happen more frequently than it does now. So when it happens, I feel ridiculously accomplished. Hey, email is hard! Don’t judge me, people. Where has all the time I used to spend on this gone? Seriously.

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New Mom Discoveries

Here’s a list of a few things I’ve learned in only 5 weeks. I can’t believe this little man came into our lives a little over a month ago. Where has the time gone? Read below and I will tell you…

time warp1.) Babies are time suckers. You may hold a baby and learn that two hours have gone by. Wait, WHAT?! Yes! Remember when  you used to sit around waiting for stuff to happen, and you looked at Instagram on your iPhone, then you surfed FB, and checked in with some Twitter action, and you were like, “GEEEEZE! It’s only been 2 and a half minutes!” Well, I discovered the key to never being bored. Have a baby. DONE.

2.) Poop on your hands, clothes, or furniture is no longer a problem. Remember those frat parties in college when someone threw up and it was the grossest thing ever? I thought I might puke myself when I got a whiff of that stuff. Well, worry no more! I can take it all– in multiple colors, shades, textures, and other varieties. Super. How can that translate to a credential for my resume? Oh, it can’t? Great. Another useless skill.

3.) I can operate on a 4 hours of sleep a day– none of which are slept consecutively. Who knew? Not I. I never would have thought something like this to be possible. Now, I do recognize that I’ve lost that beautiful “oh so fresh” glow I once got after 8-10 hours of blissful slumber. But hey, maybe I’ll learn what traditional sleep feels like when our child is 2 years old. The biggest upside to sleeping like this is that my super sensitivity to sounds (including grunts, coos, gurgles, and dribbles) means I’ll never sleep through a fire alarm again. I WILL save us in the event of impending doom.

Blow the Whistle4.) Having a baby in the summer months rocks because I don’t have to dry my hair. Who has time to dry hair? I get it. This is why new moms cut their hair off. I have yet to do this, so I have the alternative: wet hair. It goes up into a bun or pony tail because I AM at least showering everyday. And it stays wet for hours that way. What would I do if it were winter? My hair would freeze like Rose in Titanic, and I would float away on a slab of dresser.

shot5.) Babies don’t like shots, but they have a bad memory. Our little one got his first shot– right in the leg. He cried, and my heart broke a little. But it only lasted a few seconds. In no time at all, with a little rocking, he was back on track, smiling and cooing at nothing in particular. I can also say with certainty that our little man will completely forget which nurse dealt the mighty blow in the first place. This gives me lots of hope that I can almost do no wrong in the early weeks of his life. This means I can screw up a little here and there– and he doesn’t even have to forgive me for it– he’ll just forget entirely.

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What I Didn’t Know About Labor

GREAT SUCCESS! The hubbie and I welcomed our son into the world on June 20th. Here are the top 5 things I learned about labor that I didn’t know before going into the hospital. Granted, I am a bit of a worry wart, so I avoided learning about these things well in advance of delivery. I figured I’d freak myself out– like the time I got myself so worked up before having my wisdom teeth extracted that the dentist had to prescribe me a Xanax BEFORE the surgery.

1.) A nurse will not tell you when you’re wetting the bed. I kind of thought there would be an awkward moment when I relieved myself, number one or two or otherwise, when the nurse would lean in and tell me, “It’s OK, honey; this happens to everyone.” Nope. Not at all. Instead, the moments come and go (yes, there may be more than one time throughout labor that things come out of you before the baby does) without any recognition at all. What a relief! (like the pun?)

2.) Your husband/significant other may fall asleep. I saw this happen on a reality television show once. Mommy was laboring through contractions, and all of her supporters passed out a few hours in. Hey, it’s exhausting. And, when your support team gets a break, they can be that much more attentive when the going really gets tough. So, this was unexpected, but not a big deal. The hubbie took a 30-40 minute snoozer and then got some breakfast for 15 around 8 a.m. It made him much better equipped for what was coming.

3.) Your contractions may be spaced about a minute apart for a duration of time lasting more than an hour. Hell, let’s be honest. It was like that for more than 3 hours. And more than 4. I was granted the grace of 15 seconds rest between contractions on and off for many hours and can’t believe I survived. Wow.

4.) “Bear Down” means shut up, focus, and push. When we were ready to start pushing for baby, the nurse starting shouting at me, “Ok, bear down! Bear down!” To which I responded, “What the hell does bear down mean!?” It means this is hard and we get it– so eyes on the prize! I learned quickly it also means tuck your chin a little to your chest and push like hell. OK, truth be told, I still don’t really know what it means.

5.) Your doctor knows more than you, so  telling him the next steps is probably worthless. After the baby was born, I felt like I’d swallowed some bravery pills. I was like, “Holy crap! I did it! It is almost over! The pain will stop soon! Maybe my carpal tunnel and swollen ankles will be gone by lunchtime!” So I took charge of the delivery room and explained to the doctor that I still needed to push out the placenta. “Here we go,” I told him. “Are you ready? Because I’m ready, and this is the plan– I’m going to feel another contraction and push it out.” And my husband is looking at me like, “Are you bossing around our doc right now?” It was odd. I don’t know where it came from. But I felt pretty amazing to have gotten through 14.5 hours on the magic train. Sans drogas.

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