Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What a Decade - The Night I Met The One

Ten years ago, in August 2005, I had been single for about a year and a half. I was on JDate, and being set up by a few people, but met no one special. I wasn't quite feeling pressured about it, but at 25 was certainly ready to settle down and meet my lobster.

My best friend Leslie's husband, Marc, was in law school, and she called me after going out with his friends one night to say she had someone to introduce me to. She'd met him before but only really hung out with him the night before, and knew he was perfect for me instantly. She had told him so as well. 

Now - she had already attempted to fix me up once with another of Marc's law school friends, so I told her not to give this guy my number so we could go on some awkward first date, and that instead I'd meet him out one night with all of their friends. I'd met many of them before, so at least it'd be a low-pressure situation.

A bit of time passed, and it hadn't happened yet - then she called one day to tell me that he had asked Marc about it, so I figured he at least was open to meeting someone, a good sign. We chose a Thursday night when the group would be out celebrating two birthdays at a bar in Hoboken. That was ten years ago last night. 

First, I went to Leslie and Marc's apartment, where she and I split a bottle of white wine. Yes, a whole bottle. It was a beautiful summer night and we drank out on her tiny patio, catching up. Then we went to dinner at a local BYOB Mexican restaurant where they take your bottle of wine and make sangria with it. So we drank - yes - that whole pitcher as well. 

I. Was. Wasted.

We walked into the bar, I got (yet another) drink, and we made our way down the tiny flight of stairs to where their group had gathered. She pointed Evan out to me, and I remember thinking that he looked like such a nice guy, and had the most gorgeous blue eyes. 

Somehow he and I ended up talking. It's all a bit blurry, and thankfully was for him too because he had been there for a while, so I wasn't on such a drastically different level of sobriety than him. I remember asking him where he lived - "Harrison." "Oh, New York? I grew up..." "No, New Jersey." "Oh. Well where did you grow up?" "Middletown." "Oh, New York!?" "No. I'M FROM NEW JERSEY." Ha - that is the first conversation either of us remember having with each other. It was like a Marx Brothers skit from minute one. 

At some point, I wanted to confirm that he knew I was the girl he was supposed to meet, so I think I said something super slick like, "I'm Lesley. We were supposed to meet..." And he stared at me smiling, nodding, and said he knew that. I barely remember anything else - just that he stood right by my side for the rest of the night. I can still remember what it felt like that night, standing next to him and looking up as we talked, though neither of us remember about what. It was instantly comfortable, playful and easy. He bought me another drink (like I needed that!) and told me not to move while he went to get it, and I didn't. Smoking cigarettes was still allowed in Hoboken bars, and at one point while (I think) trying to impress him, I danced and fell (again, suuuuuper slick), burning my hand on one of the butts. THAT I remember. Ouch.

Soon after, he walked me to the PATH train so I could get home to New York City. It was just a few blocks, and we randomly spoke French to each other, because we'd realized we both took it in high school. And I complained about my hand, and he told me he was impressed I wasn't complaining about my feet and shoes like most girls did. And I said that I only wasn't because my burnt hand hurt so damn much.

At the train, he took my number and didn't kiss me good-bye - a move I thought was to leave me wanting a kiss, but I have learned since he was just too shy to make. (All together now - awwwwwwwww...) I left the next day on my annual family vacation (the same trip we are on together right now) and told them all I had met a guy I really liked. He called right after I got back, and we went on our first date a week later. You'll hear about that on that anniversary. 

Happy ten years since we met, Evan...  I'll try not to complain about my shoes hurting tonight! Lerve you...

Friday, August 14, 2015

5QFriday: About to Be a Second-Time Mommy!

My former colleague Luna Newton has changed so much since I met her. She was on accounts of mine at CooperKatz, and a career managee of mine, and we quickly grew close. Since then she has gotten married, had a baby, left the firm and started her own freelance career and is now about to have her second baby. we have been in touch personally and professionally and I can't wait to see what's next for one of the sweetest girls there is!!

In honor of her Sunday due date with her second, here are her answers to questions I posed to her for 5QFriday...

1) What are you most excited for about having a second baby?

I am excited about having a second chance to enjoy the moments that went by so fast with my first. I was so anxious when my daughter was born that I almost wished the newborn phase would pass quickly so that I would know she was going to be okay. I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have and am grateful to have this chance again.

2) What are you most nervous about (if anything!)?

Well, I'm a lot less nervous going into this pregnancy than I was with my first. Throughout my first pregnancy and probably the first six months after my daughter's birth, I was nervous about EVERYTHING. From how my life and friendships would change after baby, to how my marriage would evolve, to how I would be as a mother. Despite my fears, somehow everything fell into place -- my true friends were still there, my marriage become even stronger, and I eventually turned into the best and most confident form of myself that I ever knew, and that was becoming a mom. 

 3) You have effectively been all three - a working mom, a stay-at-home mom and a mom working from home. Which works best for you? Why?

Being a work-at-home mom is the best choice for me right now, at this point in my life, because it offers me the flexibility of being at home with a husband who travels often and fulfills my desire to be physically close to my child, while keeping my professional engine running at the same time. But none of those options are easy for any woman (even if they make it look easy) and all of them take sacrifice. I've had to sacrifice the fun and intelligent day-to-day conversations I had with wonderful colleagues at my old job. I've also had to find ways to continue to grow and develop professionally without having the guidance of my former superiors. 

Being a work-at-home mom and having my own business also comes with a large degree of risk -- I never know if a client will drop me out of the blue, or where I will find my next project and source of income. But I guess that uncertainly is part of life, right? You work hard, put yourself out there, prepare for the worst and always hope for the best. 

4) You have also been a city mom and suburban mom - best differences? Worst? Biggest surprise about life in the 'burbs?

I loved my time living on the Upper West Side but when my daughter was born and we were three people in a one-bedroom apartment, living in the city became a burden. Sleep training (or the lack there of) was a big problem and although we relished our weekend brunches and endless strolls around town with the baby, something had to give. Even though I knew moving to the suburbs was an eventuality for our family, I was a big city girl my whole life and it took a lot to make this move. 

Living in the suburbs does have its advantages. Besides the obvious reasons -- good schools, safe neighborhoods, clean snowy sidewalks and fresh air -- my car has become my best friend and now I can't imagine life without it. It's seriously my safe haven and home away from home. Also the change of pace out here is slower, and when you have kids, I was surprised to realize that it's actually kind of nice -- not boring. Now that I've settled into a good routine and made friends, I realize that aside from marrying my husband, moving here was the best decision I ever made.

5) What is the best piece of parenting advice you've ever gotten?

Trust your instincts. It's not foolproof, but you will usually be right 98 percent of the time. The only exception to this is during the newborn phase when you are jacked up with hormones, sleep-deprived, still healing and emotional. Then I would say, surround yourself with those you fully trust to help you get through this vulnerable time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Case for Self-Fullness

At the Warrior Mom Conference, one of the most powerful sessions was learning what it means to thrive after having a PMAD (perinatal mood and anxiety disorder). Kate Kripke from the Postpartum Wellness Center in Boulder talked about what mothers who thrive do, listing things like:

  • She knows that feeling anxious is a normal part of motherhood. 
  • She is willing to be Good Enough (and she understands that mistakes are even important)
  • She accepts and maybe even prides herself on her vulnerabilities
  • She understands the need for community and she uses it well
Each of these is profound for a mother who has been through an emotional complication after having their baby. You don't understand that anxiety is normal, because you can't comprehend a manageable level of it. You feel the need to be perfect, as every mom around you appears to be. You find it difficult to be vulnerable, because a chink in your armor is an instant reminder of past problems. And asking for help from people in your chosen community (friends, family, neighbors) is one of the hardest - but most vital - things to do. Each of us works hard at busting through these blockages and a host of others to become the mom we know we can be - an ongoing battle within our post-PMAD selves.

But the part of her speech with which I most personally struggle is that a mother who thrives "understands the need for self-fullness and that this self-fullness is in service of her child(ren)."

"Self-care" is a huge part of motherhood - it is essential to make sure you are filling yourself up in order to have any of yourself to give to others, namely your children and partner. Once I was diagnosed with my PPD, my therapist and just about everyone else said I must take time for things that made me feel like myself. For me, self-care was going out with friends or having visitors, taking time for manicures / pedicures and doing anything mindless like watching television, shopping or even time to just click aimlessly around the internet or my phone. So in the midst of my PPD battle I made sure I did these things. They came easily to me, as I always felt better as soon as I was away from Rebecca - which pushed me even further down the rabbit hole and made me question being a mother even more. Why was it so easy for me to just wave to whoever was watching her, close the door behind me and be on my way? I felt selfish, not self-full.

See, some women's postpartum anxiety and/or depression cause them to become extremely attached to their babies - anyone else wouldn't take care of them as well,or be as vigilant as they are, so no one else could possibly care for their child. I understand how pushing them to do things for themselves is crucial.

My PPD symptom was the polar opposite of that. I felt a total lack of attachment, and thought that anyone else would do a better job taking care of her than I would. I could hand Rebecca off willingly to just about anyone - friends, baby nurses, family, and most often, Evan. So I did, for my prescribed self-care time. And every time I did I felt better momentarily, because the crushing pain of trying to take care of this baby was gone, and then suddenly worse, because WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WILLINGLY GIVES AWAY HER BABY WITHOUT A SECOND GLANCE?! WHY AM I HAPPIER WITHOUT HER? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

I would agonize over how easy it was for me to detach as I went through whatever activity I had chosen, likely defeating a large percentage of the purpose of the self-care - but still, I always arrived home calmer and more able to take care of Rebecca. More self-full in service of my child - though I beat myself up to get there each time.

This weekend, Evan and I went away, just the two of us, so that he could compete in a triathlon. It is also his birthday today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVAN!!) so we made the weekend celebratory, taking an extra day away after his race to just let loose. And we did - we drank, we ate, we gambled, we relaxed by the pool and we laughed. We talked without being interrupted by a 4 y.o. or screaming infant. We held hands, we flirted and we remembered how much fun the other is - something that gets lost in our day to day lives of wiping little butts, noses, faces and hands.

And after just 48 hours away, we drove back to my in-laws' to get Rebecca and Lila and bring them home and I was suddenly aware that I felt completely self-full. And as such, I was full of love for my family.

I drove home from my in-laws' house with the girls while Evan drove the other car alone. Lila slept in her car seat and Rebecca and I talked - truly talked - the entire way. We had a nonstop conversation about the weekend she had with Grandma and Grumpa, our plans for the rest of the Summer, and an upcoming trip that we are taking at the end of next week. We talked about the school year to come, and friends and family, and we made each other laugh. It felt like I was chatting with a good friend and was so. much. fun. She is such a big girl - but still so small and adorably hilarious without intending to be - and she makes me swell with pride at least once a day with her memory, sense of humor and imagination.

Back all together again, I was patient, played with, bathed and fed my daughters with a warmth that I hadn't felt in a long time, and even Evan and I were more gentle with each other.

I got in bed that night in awe of my life. Of my relationship with this little girl with whom I initially wanted none. Of my baby, who is a dream. Of my husband, who makes me happier than anyone else in the world. I am so grateful for this past weekend, the self-reflection that the Warrior Mom Conference opened up in me and Kate Kripke. And I finally don't feel guilty about that ability to detach anymore - because taking time for my self-fullness is entirely in service of my children, my husband and myself.