Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Mom Job: Year One

I first applied to be a mom in September of 2015. My own mother had passed away a few months before, I'd left my full-time job, my husband and I had bought our first home and with all the movement, there was nothing to truly ground me. It was the perfect setup for baby-making. Except it wasn't. 

Initially, I received notice that I was a strong contender for the gig, but a month later I learned I wasn't (read: miscarriage).

Once my heart healed, I started applying again. And again. For a long time. For a year. Apparently, I just wasn't the right fit and I didn't know if I ever would be. I wondered if I'd made a mistake even applying to begin with. And just when I was about to give up, move on and focus my energy on a different career, I got the call (read: positive pregnancy test). 

My head hunter (read: OBGYN) confirmed a baby had in fact hired me and was living in my uterus. I was shocked. I was nervous. And I prayed it enjoyed my uterus enough to stay put. 

I did a decent job making the baby comfortable and when I learned she was a girl, I did my best to prepare our home for her arrival. I'm assuming I did so well she couldn't wait to experience things firsthand, so she decided she'd had enough of my uterus after only 7.5 months. She made me lie in a hospital bed for a week before choosing the exact moment she wanted to exit me and enter the world, April 26th, 2017 at 7:23am. I didn't take it personally.  


I was immediately aware of the immensity of this new situation. Sure, I'd spoken to plenty of people in the business of parenting and asked a million questions in hopes of preparing me for this part of the job. I knew my life would change forever, that I would have close to zero vacation or personal time, and even sick days wouldn't be an option. I knew I'd lose sleep. I knew I'd be stuck wearing my maternity clothes longer than I would like. I knew it would be all about her. And yet, I still wasn't prepared. For what it's worth, I don't think any class, book, or stranger in Target who saw your belly and decided to give you an impromptu lecture on breastfeeding, could truly prepare you. But, that's ok. Because none of these babies, bosses, both - are the same. So you get used to yours and you learn. 

The baby left it up to us (upon her arrival, my husband became my business partner) to give her a name, so we chose Emmerson Glo. We wanted to give her a name with options. She could use the strong, solid, full version, or she could go with simple and cute, calling herself Emmy. Glo was short for Gloria, my mother's name, a woman who I felt had somehow placed a bit of her own strength and tenacity into this new little being. As we began calling her by her name, Emmerson would look us over and appeared impressed, or at the very least, satisfied. 

Over the next three months, life sped by in a whirlwind of diaper changes, pumping, feeding, crying (both me and Emmerson), laughing, screaming (again, me and Emmerson) and sleeping (more Emmerson, than me). I wasn't convinced I was doing a great job at being a mom. To be honest, I was pretty sure I wasn't even pulling a satisfactory grade (there was more than one sobbing into a pillow episode). It was hard. Hard in ways I didn't realize it would be. Gone was the life I led where I could shower whenever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. Now, alone for most of the day while my husband went to his other job, my life was filled with one tedious, arduous moment after another. Some women are made for this kind of job, a selfless job that never ends, that goes on for every second of the day. I don't think I was born one of those women. I wasn't experiencing postpartum depression, I just wasn't built for this. But there were glimpses of a different life that would make themselves known from time to time. There were moments when Emmerson would fall asleep, curled up against my chest and her soft breathing would lull me into a state of blissful meditation. There were moments when she'd raise her eyebrow and make a face I thought I could only see on an adult, and it would make me laugh out loud. And then there were moments when she started to see me, started to follow me with her eyes and I finally felt like she cared about me the way I cared about her. She wanted to know that I was around. Being a mother wasn't a job I ever planned to quit, and it was these moments that helped me power on. 

By month four, I was starting to feel more confident that maybe I wasn't absolutely terrible at this job. I had chosen not to return to my previous career full-time, for now, because I wanted Emmerson's childhood to be different than mine. My mother had done her best at being present in my childhood, but being my mother wasn't the only job she had. She worked for the government and it took up a lot of her time, much like my job working as a television field producer would if I returned to work. And I give the women who do both a ton of props, it's a lot to handle and a lot of emotions to juggle. Still, not going back wasn't an easy decision to make. Some may think, who wouldn't want to avoid returning to an office and just stay home with their baby? But me, I loved my career. It could be hard as hell and nerve-wracking at times, but I loved it. I loved interviewing people from all walks of life, from soccer moms to A-list celebs. I loved traveling around the country to meet people and tell their stories. To go from that to being alone with an infant eleven hours of the day, and the only "talking" I participated in consisted of me using a ridiculous baby voice with someone who didn't talk back, was not an easy transition. But, the minute Emmerson chose me to be her mom, I knew she was my priority, and I'd figure out the rest one day at a time. 

I think my promotion came during Emmerson's sixth month. I went from being baby slave to baby sidekick. We started to get out of the house a lot more because I understood her better, her moods and the feeding and sleeping schedule she'd come to have. She started laughing, a lot. She thought I was hilarious, I'm not, but she's a baby, she doesn't know any better. She, on the other hand, started showing signs of a personality, and in doing so, showed signs of becoming her own person. An awesome little person. It dawned on me then that things I had been terrified of, like not knowing how to teach a baby anything, were actually things that just happened. I don't remember when she figured out how to help me put her shirts on, but she did and it's not something I taught her how to do. I don't know how she figured out how to use a sippy cup, or how she understood me when I told her she had to tilt her head back a bit to get the most out of the cup. But, she did. And I don't know how she came to love me the way she does, or what I've done to deserve the way she does, but she does. And that changed a lot. 

A year into this job, and it is a job (the most challenging I've ever had), I look back at all the photos, the videos, the social media posts and I see so much good, so many amazing moments that I've been so lucky to have with this little girl. And yes, all of the moments haven't been reflected in those things. The tough ones, the stressful ones, the ones I thought I'd never recover from (like the time she got a stomach bug and wouldn't stop vomiting and I thought my heart would literally break because I love this child so much I can't stand to see her in pain), there may not be a photo documenting them, but they happened, and to tell this story without telling them would be like not telling the story at all. Because it is all the moments combined, good and challenging, that have made me the mom I am, and Emmerson the super smart, crazy, cool, funny, curious, personable, lovable, sweet, and beautiful little girl that she is. And I know now that she was the only one ever meant to be my baby boss, and I will always be grateful to her for hiring me and making me her mom. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A tale of multiple pregnancies

So in continuing the tradition of surprising people who never thought I would get married, I'm now 26 weeks pregnant, totally baffling people if I hadn't already.

"I cannot believe my best friend is pregnant, I never thought this day would come," is one of the first things my friend of twenty-five years said to me moments after hearing the news. In the list of things people thought were impossible, world peace was first and me making a conscious effort to produce another human was ranked second. While I've always been considered the mother hen of my friends, making sure everyone is okay and accounted for on trips to other countries and late nights that led to White Castle binging, I wasn't the one aching to be a mother. It's not that I haven't possessed a maternal instinct, it's more like no one planned on me purposefully enforcing it.

But, in the summer of 2015, after the life-changing experience of losing my own mother, the need to do something meaningful in my life, something beyond my career or personal goals (like learning how to perfectly roast a chicken), overwhelmed me. Creatively I was stunted. The memoir I'd thought I'd be able to write about the relationship I had with my mother wasn't flowing out of me the way I had expected it would. I wasn't ready. And while I was very busy gathering ideas to design everything from the floors to the roof of the home we'd purchased in New Jersey, I still felt empty.

I remember walking around the house, in and out of rooms that had been stripped down to the studs and thinking,  It would be ridiculous to waste all this space on just us. We should have kids. 

It's not that my husband and I had never discussed it, it was just that we spoke about it in the way you talk about wanting to visit Thailand one day, but never actually open your date book to figure out how you're going to fit that kind of epic trip into your schedule. But now, I wanted to nail the trip down. I wanted to be a mom.

My husband was immediately on board, and so, off birth control I went! I feel like there should be a parade for such events. I mean, I had spent the last fifteen years following a strict regiment of pill-taking only to stop it completely and throw caution to the wind. It felt momentous.

Within two months, I was pregnant. I wasn't deeply surprised because I never thought it would be hard. I pretty much assumed I was this fertile being who'd been suppressed for years and was now given the opportunity to blossom and deliver multiple humans into society. I was wrong.

About the eight week into my pregnancy, we visited my OBGYN for the first time. An initial urine sample was enough to make my doctor hug and congratulate me as we walked into the exam room. There was an excitement my husband and I shared as we waited to see the visual evidence of our little baby to be. The doctor situated herself, positioned the monitor so we could both see what was going on inside my lady parts, and got to work with the ultrasound wand.

"There's the gestational sac," she said, pointing to a little bubble in a sea of black.

And then she went silent, working the wand with gusto. Almost immediately my heart dropped. I could tell she was looking for something that she wasn't seeing.

"Are you sure your dates are correct? Because if they aren't, if you're here earlier than you should be, this is fine. But if you're dates are right..."

"There's no way I'm wrong."

She put the wand aside and looked at us, her whole demeanor changed. "Then what's happened is a blighted ovum, a miscarriage will follow." She looked at us sadly and explained what this all meant. The short version - the egg had been fertilized, but the embryo had never developed. So while I was showing up pregnant on any test I took, the truth was, I was not. She assured me of the "good" news: "At least you know you can get pregnant. And odds are a blighted ovum will not happen again." Oh, joy. 

Let me quickly summarize the hellish few weeks that followed as to not lose you before this story gets better... I did a lot of Googling (this is never a good thing, especially when health-related) and read story upon story from women who had gone through this and who had to wait weeks, even months before their body naturally miscarried the damaged egg. Do you know the kind of mind f*ck that is? Your body has failed you, and now it's just going to kick back and drag this situation out for an indefinite amount of time when all you want to do is forget it happened and get back on track.

My doctor gave me a few options. The first was to use pills that would force a miscarriage. That was a very fun experience, especially the part where I felt the equivalent of contractions throughout an entire night only to wake up and find out the pills hadn't fully worked. The next option was to try the pills again (no thanks!) or have an aspiration abortion where basically all the stuff that won't come out gets sucked out with a vacuum. Another option that sounded like a wonderful way to spend a day! But it was either that or fall into a lovely depression while I waited for my body to stop being an asshole. I chose the former. And let's just say, that wasn't a walk in the park either. I had a panic attack in the middle of the procedure and thought I was dying. So there's that.

With the whole ordeal finally behind me, we waited a few weeks for my insides to heal before trying again. I wasn't too discouraged when I got my period a month later. My body was still in transition, I told myself. But one month turned into four, each filled with glamorous periods. We started using ovulation kits which quickly turns baby-making into a chore and leaves you feeling even more defeated when a "perfectly" timed session doesn't lead to a pregnancy.

Finally, in April I missed my period by two days and felt elated. It was the week of our second wedding anniversary and if I was in fact pregnant, the baby's due date would be Christmas day. How perfect was that! I tested positive and when I told my husband the news he was ecstatic. Finally, we could move on!

Except we couldn't.

A few days later my period hit, along with an emotional breakdown that left me crying in bed for about five straight hours. What was wrong with my body? How could this be? I called my new OBGYN, whom I had not yet met in person, and begged her for an answer. She told me the events I'd described to her sounded like a chemical abortion - a situation where your body terminates the pregnancy so quickly you wouldn't have even known you were pregnant had you not tested so early. She gave me a new rule of thumb: don't test until TEN days after a missed period. Ten days?! That's like asking me to ignore a delectable cake sitting on my kitchen counter, tempting me with its sweet scent. And when I did meet her in person, she ran tests which only showed there was nothing wrong with me. I was in prime baby-making health, despite being on the verge of thirty-five. It just wasn't the "right time".

What followed in the next few months was more trying and failing. Sure, it wasn't really failing, per se, but when you're in our shoes, there's no other way to feel. It didn't help that people who didn't know our situation liked to say things like, "My kid needs a playmate, when are you guys going to get the ball rolling?" or "You've been married more than two years, isn't it time to start a family?" Granted, I heard this mostly from people who never had issues having children. So here's where I'd like to insert a PSA: HOW ABOUT YOU DON'T SAY THINGS LIKE THIS TO PEOPLE. Never assume you know someone's story despite anything you think you know about them, because more often than not, you're probably wrong. As a side PSA, for those that do learn of a couple's hard time, how about: DON'T JUST SMILE AND TELL THEM 'WHEN YOU STOP TRYING, IT'LL HAPPEN, JUST RELAX.' After I heard that for about the seventeenth time I thought about just wearing a sign that said "F*ck Off", but I do realize the people behind the statements meant well and believed encouragement was the best they could offer. Personally, I'd rather just hear: THAT SUCKS. IF YOU NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT, I'M HERE FOR YOU.

By the time the summer of 2016 rolled around and we were creeping up on a year of unsuccessful attempts, I made a choice: if I wasn't pregnant by the early Fall, I was done. I'd redirect my efforts towards something else and leave this process in the past...Then my mom intervened.

In July, I met with a psychic medium a friend of mine swears by. Aside from channeling my mother and having her talk to me about other pertinent things going on in my life that the psychic could not have known, mom wanted me to know that I would be pregnant before the year was up and that I'd be blessed with a child that was just like me. 

It's not that I left that session with tremendous hope, instead I just left with a validated plan. Let's see if you're right, mom. And that's all there was to it.

September rolled around and I was on the same exact cycle I had been a year earlier when I'd gotten pregnant the first time. I missed my period again just as I had then. Despite my doctor's warnings, I tested the first day instead of the tenth and the test showed a strong double line. Did we smile? Yes. But excitement was no longer something we could feel in the way we had that first time, we'd been robbed of it. Instead, we took some deep breaths and waited it out. On the tenth day, my period still hadn't come and I was well aware that it wouldn't be. Still, I wasn't jumping for joy. I'd made it passed this marker once before as well, only for things to not turn out as I'd hoped.

I called my doctor and, based on my history, she scheduled an immediate visit. I figured it was too early for them to see anything and that only blood tests would be performed, so I didn't bring my husband along. When I walked into the exam room, my doctor brought out the ultrasound machine and I did a double take. Flashbacks hit me like a harsh wave and I felt incredibly uneasy.

"But you won't be able to see anything. It's too soon, no?" I asked. She told me there was a chance we would and to just relax. A few minutes later that familiar black sea was on the monitor and the small gestational sac sat inside of it.

"See this," she pointed at a fluttering white dot, "That's the baby's heartbeat."

I looked at her like she had three heads and so she went on to explain that the baby's development appeared perfectly normal and she wanted me back in a few weeks to check on the progress. If my husband had been there, I would have burst into tears, but without him I held it together, acting like I'd just been told my Wendy's order was ready. "Oh, ok, great."

I left the office in a state of shock and, after snapping out of it, called my husband. In that moment we were both incredibly happy, but the scarring of our year-long experience remained and so we were cautious, not spreading the news or believing in it too fully ourselves. And we remained that way with each week that passed, especially when I spotted and was put on bed rest for a week (why would any of this be easy?), and into my morning sickness and extreme fatigue and every other wonderful thing that comes with a viable pregnancy.

It's crazy to think that was twenty weeks ago, that I'm still pregnant with a healthy baby growing inside of me, and that the little baby is a girl who, when the ultrasound technician caught her posing for the sonogram photos said, "She's quite the ham" to which my husband turned to me and replied, "Just like you."

Just like me. 

Just like my mother said she'd be.

Now, I'm roughly three months away from meeting this little being and while I could spend the next six paragraphs telling you all the ugly  wonderful 😁 truths I learned about what pregnancy does to your body, I'll save that for another blog post. Instead, I'll leave you with this... It wasn't until I started sharing my fertility issues with other women that I began to learn how hard it's been for others. Miscarriages and complications aren't the first stories you hear when it comes to pregnancy, sometimes you don't hear them at all. But they are important. They are a way of helping us understand the struggle of others and that we're not alone when it happens to us.











Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Home Renovation 101

I renovated a 1920s colonial home in Rutherford and nearly lost my sanity in doing so, BUT it all turned out wonderful in the end. So naturally, I started a new blog: www.YouPinnedISawWeConquered.com This one will feature before and after photos, DIY projects and all things home that I learned while renovating my house. If you're into that kind of thing, feel free to check it out, subscribe and follow along :-)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Club of Loss

Yesterday, as my husband and I perused a flower shop, abundant with HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY signs, I paused and said aloud, "I don't have a mother anymore." He looked at me with that sad and understanding look I've received many times since my mother passed away last month, but before he had a chance to say something, I rescinded my proclamation and added, "I take that back, it's not that I don't have a mother, I just don't have mine."

On April 13th, I received a call from the hospital where my mother was being treated that would change my life forever, that would induct me into one of the most profoundly meaningful clubs I'll ever be a part of - the club of loss. It's true what they say, you don't know what it's like to lose the person you've literally known the longest in your life until you do, and there aren't words that can describe what that loss feels like. So I stopped trying to find them.

In my darkest moments, when I'm suddenly reminded she's no longer here because I was about to call her with some juicy gossip only she would love, or pass a store she shopped at often, I lose my breath, like someone just kicked me straight in the chest. But I don't break, because almost instantly I'm reminded of a notebook she left behind, filled with a list of To Dos for me to handle upon her death. The most prominent message in that book, scribbled in her defined cursive, is simply "celebrate my life, dance and laugh". And then I'm at ease...at least for a little while.

I believe other club members who tell me the pain never really goes away, it just sticks around forever, at moments dull and remote, and other times strong and nearly overwhelming. But I'll also follow the advice of those that have told me to laugh when a memory of her causes me to do so, to smile when I see something that reminds me of her and to be happy because she'd want me to be... she literally wrote it in a book.

So this Mother's Day I send my love to all the moms I know, the ones that adore their children and the ones that have acted as mothers to me throughout my life (it takes a village...) And to the very special woman whose spirit is probably sitting beside me and proofreading this entry (that would explain why I keep obsessively rereading for typos), you will be in my thoughts always and my heart forever.

I love you.






Thursday, January 16, 2014

Friday, November 8, 2013

How My Job Saved My Life…Probably

Over the last six months, I've been asked again and again what prompted my twenty-five pound weight loss since 2011.

“Tell me the secret, Lauren!”
“What’s the quick fix?”
“How do you keep it off?”
“Is it a special workout?”
“Is it a pill?”

It’s all of these things, and yet none of them at the same time. But, to better explain, I need to start at the beginning… August 2010.

When I was twenty-eight years old and loving my carb-and-grease-filled-life, I began working on the Dr. Oz show.  Most people start a new job and are inundated with the elements that go along with that job, and yes, I had some of that, but what really overloaded my brain was the sudden injection of knowledge about how I was probably destroying my body from the inside out.

I was learning things about diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, every cancer known to man, thyroids – you get the gist – and for the life of me I can’t remember having heard any of this during high school or college biology and anatomy. My God, what did I learn in those classes?

And the resounding lesson was clear: suicide isn't the only way to end your life, ignoring your health is a much easier route. I know that’s a dramatic comparison, but that’s how real this revelation was to me. And it took about a year and a half of being with the show for it to really sink in.

I come from a family plagued with stomach cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and God knows what else. As I considered this history and compared it to my new-found insights, I was overwhelmed by a need to rethink the relationship I had with my own body. At the time I treated it like the boy next door whose love I wasn't aware of and maybe took advantage of, and the relationship I really needed to have was one of mutual love and respect.

And that helped me understand something incredibly significant - as someone who’s dealt with body image issues and yo-yoing weight since they were twelve, my goal had always been a vain one: get skinny. And I was suddenly aware that it should have always been bigger: stay alive.

So the first phase began. I started with my diet…by not going on one. I changed the diet I was already on, the “I’m only twenty-nine, I can still eat whatever I want as long as I get on the treadmill once a week” diet. That diet was a huge, monumental lie and it needed to be buried far beneath the deepest sea.

I jumped on the Weight Watchers bandwagon at my office. My mind was blown by how efficient the program was at teaching me just how horrible some of my favorite foods were based on their points value. I remember forfeiting something like eleven points on a milkshake one time and hating myself later when all I had left to eat for the day was vegetables and it was only 1:30pm. And that’s when I thought, this thing must have a lot more fat in it than I thought, and it did. And that same experience started to play out over and over with foods I’d never considered to be detrimental to my health. Foods I’d grown up eating on a daily basis because my mother and others who raised me didn't know any better, like most of our country. So I began minimizing my interaction with them or eliminating them all together. Which lead to the next phase…

What can I eat?  

I circled back to the show and paid closer attention to our go-tos: Greek yogurt, quinoa, whole grains, kale, walnuts… I had an entire shopping list at my disposal for quite some time and had never paid attention to it. I started eating new things, healthy things, things that weren't going to wreak havoc on my arteries or clog my intestines. And the thing that was probably most surprising is that they were actually enjoyable. I’d spent most of my life thinking that reducing carbs and adding more vegetables to my diet was going to be a Fear Factor-like experiment. I really thought it’d be like eating roaches. It wasn't.

So there I am, watching my own show, taking notes on new foods I could try and soon I’m noticing other things, non-food things that I think I should give a shot, because health isn't just what you eat, it’s how you think. Doc (as I've come to call him) really has a thing for meditation and yoga. I used to giggle over this stuff; I just couldn't take it seriously. But when you find yourself on a shoot at a yoga studio and you don’t dare giggle, you start to pay attention and you start to think, “Damn, these people are really calm.” And you start to realize how not calm you are. And next thing I know I’m sitting with twenty of my coworkers, meditating in our conference room or bending in ways I didn't think I could at a yoga class.

It didn't stop there. When your host is the kind of celebrity that actually practices what they preach, and when you spend hours in the presence of that host, you start to really pay attention. I began questioning what nutrients I was missing on a daily basis, what natural supplements I should be taking, what could help me build myself up to combat any crappy illness that might come my way. I ate good things, I followed a supplement regiment and I started to feel good, genuinely good, throughout all of my body. And around this time, almost two years into working with the show, I met someone who took health just as seriously as I did. Which led to one of the most important phases…

Support.

Bless my family for being such loving and wonderful people, they mean well, I know they do, but they can really be crappy eaters. I constantly have to defend myself for plating only a spoon of rice at Sunday dinner instead of half a plate. “Lauren, you've lost enough weight, stop dieting!” I’m not dieting and I've tried explaining this a million times, but people are just set in their ways sometimes. And here’s a tip: you know all those greasy, delicious foods you grew up loving (especially if you come from a Puerto Rican household like mine), when you haven’t had them for months they are still going to taste just as decadent, but there’s a good chance you’ll be sick for a day or two after eating them (firsthand experience). It’s like your body says, “Please don’t go back to eating that. You never noticed it before, but now you see how much I hate it.”

Luckily, there’s my fiancé, Matt, to help balance the scales. I can’t remember at what point in our relationship we learned that we both adhere to the healthiest lifestyle possible, probably after the first few months of dating where all you do is eat awesome food and drink awesome cocktails at awesome restaurants. (See, I still know how to enjoy food and life. Take that, non-believers!) Turns out he ran the NYC marathon, does yoga and tries his best to limit refined foods, but boy does he love cheese. I think he derives from a line of mice. I digress… The point is, I never had to explain myself to Matt, because he felt the same way and he could care less about losing weight, he just wants to live his life without a barrage of health scares waiting for him at every turn. He gets it. Thanks, babe!

So you see… it’s not one thing that helped me lose weight, and yet there is one goal that definitely did: not aiming to lose weight. I just celebrated my thirty-second birthday. My vitals are better than they were in my twenties, and I’m not only thinner, I’m stronger, both inside and out.  I don’t give people advice on how to lose weight, I ask them what means more to them; fitting into a pair of jeans from their thinner days or living until they are a hundred and being in the best shape throughout? Working on this show helped me understand the real difference between those options. And now, you know not just how I did it, but why.









Thursday, September 12, 2013