Monday, February 22, 2010

Kitchen Redo

Who knew the toughest choice to make about our kitchen renovation would be the backsplash? I mean, I wasn’t even sure I wanted or needed a backsplash. Afterall, we’ve lived the last 15 years without one and I hardly noticed until one of my friends asked about it. So now, after choosing the new appliances --- a grueling process where I did a 180 from thinking I wanted the bare essentials to realizing that aesthetics, not function, was of utmost importance --- I am ready to tackle the next choice.

So, I have finally selected a backsplash surface that I'm not just happy with, but am actually salivating over! I am not a fan of the ubiquitous subway tile. I don’t care whether it’s small, large, square, or rectangle. It all reminds me of the 1950s and not in a good, retro kind of way. I just can’t get past subway tiles looking like my elementary school cafeteria, which calls to mind the really foul tasting Sloppy Joes they would serve us every other week.

So imagine my delight when I found beach glass backsplash tile that looked good enough to eat? It helps that our new kitchen color scheme will likely be tones of buttery yellow, carmel, and/or toffee. I think I could just lick them right off the wall. BUT --- and this is key --- my backsplash tile will be frosted, not shiny. Although I love a good shiny tidbit as much as the next magpie, I just can’t see the shine in our kitchen. It’s got to be the frosted finish. I am loving those little carmel colored squares ---- yum ---- good enough to eat. Stay tuned for more about the kitchen redo soon.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Mommy Track: Guaranteed Employment in a Hurried World

When I left the corporate world behind almost a decade ago, I figured I would also leave behind the hectic pace that went with it: endless meetings, working lunches, long days. After 25 years of that schedule, it’s no wonder I longed for the mommy track. However, it seems a frantic schedule is a bit more difficult to walk away from.

My days are still filled with endless meetings. But instead of discussing the Gross National Product, we now discuss that gross blob under my daughter’s bed. As we rush from school to hip hop to art, I hear myself repeat my mommy mantra: “Hurry up. We don’t want to be late for (fill in the blank).” Yet, it wasn’t until I heard my daughter parroting these sentiments ─ “Hurry, mommy. We’ve got to beat feet.” ─ that reality hit home. I have no idea where she got that expression, but it’s clear she understood the meaning.

What happened to that leisurely schedule I had fantasized about? Did I subconsciously need this frantic schedule, this heightened sense of urgency to make myself feel important in my mommy role? What I now realize is that to be a successful mom (as well as a successful business person) we need to bring something constructive to the table. And, to do that most effectively, we need to listen, apply ourselves, and slow down.

Today, I’m determined to change my hurried ways; to slow down and savor precious moments with my daughter. I will no longer sweat it if we’re late for class. What’s the worse that can happen? I’ll get passed over for that next promotion? I think not, because ─ and here’s the Eureka Moment ─ in the mommy world, I will always have a job. Like other moms, I am the CEO, COO, and CFO of this corporation. Unlike the corporate world, none of us is replaceable. Because, whatever the circumstances, we will always be the moms of our sons and daughters. Isn’t it best that we slow down and enjoy the job while we’re still employed?

The Gender Dilemma: Is it a girl or is it a boy?

When we received the call confirming my pregnancy, our initial reaction was one of disbelief, followed by feelings of unbridled joy. This jumble of emotions, normal for many parents-to-be, surprised not only myself and my husband, but also our friends, who, for the past four years, had shared with us the rollercoaster ride that defines infertility. During much of that time my husband and I were plagued with doubts and indecision: Are we doing the right thing? Will we make good parents? Can we adapt our carefree DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle? And, most importantly, do we want to?
But when I finally heard the news, all those doubts and indecisions were erased in a flash. After years of trying and turmoil, the miracle had finally happened. We were ecstatic. However, the euphoria was short lived. Just a few weeks after we heard the news, I also heard a voice inside my head began to nag: what if the baby is a boy?
I hadn’t admitted to anyone, except my husband, how much I coveted a girl. At first my husband tried to brush off my obsession. But as he watched me become more possessed with the idea of a girl baby, he panicked, fearing I wouldn’t know how to love a boy child. I tried to explain that love was not the issue. I could love a stone. It’s just that, although the logic escaped me, I craved a little girl.
Please understand it’s not that I dislike the male species. On the contrary, I adore men and little boys, as well as most of the stages in between. It’s just that I never really warmed to the idea of raising a boy. All those stereotypes of roughneck kids punching and kicking and sweating were foreign to me. Growing up with two sisters and no brothers had definitely colored my world toward the pink end of the spectrum. I was a girly-girl eschewing little league for ballet classes and soccer games for mud-pie making. I loved dolls and dress up and china dishes.
Now, as I looked ahead to the future it held a decidedly rosy hue. I pictured my daughter and her little girlfriends hosting dainty tea parties with their dolls. I daydreamed about dance recitals and pink tutus. I remembered with poignancy those mother-daughter shopping excursions I so loved as a teenager. What did I know of fire engines and racecars? Baseball and battlefields? And, more importantly, what did I want to know of them?
Yet, why this obsession with the feminine gender? Did I subconsciously want to live my life over through a daughter? Was it because I never had my fill of dolls and frilly dresses as a child? The answer eluded me and as I struggled with my guilt, I fervently hoped this obsession would be supplanted by the anticipation of the birth I so longed for. Happily, for the next few months, it was.
As I focused on my progressing pregnancy and the health of this unborn child, with each passing week I breathed a sign of relief that all was well. As the months passed and my knowledge of the process grew, I realized how truly fragile and precarious this tiny being was. Fact: with my statistics — age 46, no previous pregnancies, fertility drugs  I had a 50 percent chance of losing the baby during the first three months. Luckily, that percentage dropped to a low two percent once I passed the first trimester.

Yet, even as I grew more secure in my pregnancy, that other concern began to resurface. Evidently it wasn’t enough that at my age I was healthy and pregnant. I wanted more. I wanted a girl. I wrestled with my guilt. How could I even think these thoughts? I should be and was thankful to be pregnant while older friends all around me were struggling with adoption and infertility.
I began to take it as an omen that strangers and friends alike looked me over and pronounced authoritatively: It’s a boy. I would arguesometimes vehementlyto the contrary. But with each passing day, I became less sure. And finally I resolved to prepare for a boy. Just in case.
As the birth date approached, we scoured books for likeable boys’ names. Needless to say, we had first, second, and third choices for the female nomenclature. But after a relatively short research period, to our surprise, we found a likeable boy’s name. As I pondered the masculine name and all it implied, slowly, tentatively I began to embrace the idea of a baby boy. Maybe it would be fun to experience all of the things I had never experienced as a little girl.
Finally D-day, or rather in my case, delivery week arrived. I was in the throes of labor, which consisted of one week of hospital rest, four days of inducement, eight hours of active labor, and ultimately, an emergency Cesarean section. Having made it this far, I found myself, like countless others before me, just praying for a healthy baby. Boy, girl, blond, brunette, redhead. Suddenly none of that mattered and what was most important was the health of the baby. So, when the attending physician said those magic words, I truly could have cared less. My only question was whether or not the baby was OK. Today, the baby and I are doing just fine. And, oh, by the way, it’s a girl. Now we’re pining for a little brother to keep her company.

New Moms and Menopause

Raging hormones are certainly an expected side effect of the expectant mom, but when the expectant mom is simultaneously approaching menopause, the term “raging hormones” doesn’t even begin to describe what she’s going through. Thanks to the miracle of modern medicine and fertility drugs, this scenario is not the oxymoron it used to be. Indeed, there are more than a few moms out there ‘enjoying’ morning sickness along with hot flashes. I should know. I’m one of them.
It’s no secret that women are having children later in life, hence the growing collision between ‘new momhood’ and menopause. The National Center for Heath Statistics in Washington, D.C. reports that births to women ages 45 to 49  the years when most women are approaching menopause  rose 15 percent from 1990 to 1999. Although more uncommon, births to women age 50 and older are also rising largely because of fertility treatments. According to Dr. David DiChiara, MD, of Beverly Hospital, “Two of my patients in their mid-forties had premature ovarian failure and premature menopause, and went the donor egg route. Several got pregnant by accident, if you will, and then two to three years later went into menopause.”
Having worked long and hard to get pregnant myself, I was ready for the morning sickness, the swollen ankles, even the gestational diabetes, of which I had all three. However, I was not prepared for the simultaneous upheaval of my confused 46-year-old uterus. To put it mildly, the old uterus didn’t know whether it was coming or going. On the one hand, it was, I suspect, delighted to be a ready receptacle for my blossoming embryo. On the other, it was only too happy to say so long to the monthly menstrual cycles that had wrecked havoc on it for more than 30 years.
Now, three-and-a-half years later, I’m proud to say I’ve weathered nine months of pregnancy, 14 months of breast feeding, and too many months of the terrible twos. However, it’s the last eight months that have been the toughest in terms of bodily changes. As my daughter rounded the three-year mark, my 49-year-old body was hell bent on embracing the menopausal journey. I fully expected to have fitful sleep patterns when I was pregnant. Ditto, when I was nursing. However, I was really looking forward to a more normal nocturnal schedule once my daughter began sleeping her 12-hour stints. Not so. It seems as you approach menopause, one of the side effects of changing hormonal levels can be insomnia. The doctors were quick to tell me that sleeplessness would most likely get worse before it got better. In fact, they said I might be one of those ‘lucky’ women who could look forward to another 10 years of insomnia.

Rhonda, a new older mom who had her son when she was 43 and went into menopause four years later, says, “Which came first? The exhaustion from lack of sleep from being a new mom, or the lack of sleep because of shifting hormones? Then, the mood swings because of lack of sleep? “She calls this the ‘older mom conundrum’.
Adds Rhonda, “I experienced hot flashes and mood swings, as well as fitful sleeping patterns. But because my nights were often interrupted by my son, I got used to functioning on less sleep and didn’t connect this rollercoaster ride to hormone shifts.”
For Rhonda, the experience of being a new mom and an older new mom often blended: “If you add the perimenopausal symptom into the mix of new mom experiences, it can wreck havoc with your mind, body, and soul. But, sometimes I wondered, is this the experience of being a new mom or an older new mom?”
What were the other challenges we menopausal moms could look forward to? How about the physical limits of the middle-aged body? I had no problem getting down on all fours to play “horsey” with my daughter. It was the getting back up that was a problem. I suspect you wouldn’t hear 20-something moms emit the grunts and groans I was unable to suppress as I went bi-level.

Linda, at age 53, agrees, and adds that life experiences and not having the career issues a 20-something mom might have, helps provide wisdom and patience at every turn.
“After 19 years of marriage, at 43 I had a surprise pregnancy, a very rough delivery, and a long healing process. So, I can truly say motherhood is the most exhausting, yet the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.”
Linda, who leads an Arlington-based, older first-time moms group that began in Arlington nine years ago, adds that menopause wasn’t an issue until she reached her 50s. “In fact, after the birth, for the first time in my life my periods were regular. Besides, who has time to think about menopause while taking care of a baby?” Having sailed through the menopause storm with hardly a symptom, Linda thinks her lack of hot flashes might be due to the diet of tofu and veggie soup she began consuming on a twice-weekly basis at age 51.
Rhonda adds, “Because I’m often around younger moms, I forget that I’m older and need to remind myself that it’s okay to go a little slower and take a break when necessary.”

As Hot Flashes, Warm Bottles: First Time Mothers Over Forty author Nancy London confirms: “While all mothers feel tired, the perimenopausal mother’s fatigue is compounded by her post-birth/premenopausal hormone cocktail. This potent mix creates a bone-deep fatigue that is poignantly juxtaposed against the high-energy needs of her young child.”
So much for energy levels. And what about weight gain? Thanks to a pregnancy diet to hold in check gestational diabetes, I only put on 16 pounds during my entire pregnancy. However, because I was deprived of certain goodies for nine months, I managed to make up the difference after the baby was delivered. In fact, I now weigh a solid 20 pounds more than when I was pregnant! At least when I was carrying my daughter, her growing needs helped to balance the calories. The experts say the weight gain is not helped by menopause and I can expect to put on an additional 10 pounds every year unless I make some minor dietary changes. Like starving myself, I wonder?

Another dilemma sometimes faced by the older new mom is whether she is the mother or grandmother of her child. I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of sidelong glances trying to ascertain which. In my husband’s case, since he’s already fifty-plus, more often then not, people assume he’s the granddad. But he’s no longer insulted. In fact, my husband now takes pride in the fact that he sired a daughter just two months shy of his 50 birthday. With me it’s a bit more sensitive. Afterall, I may be menopausal but I’m not yet 50. However, if you do the math, my daughter could just as easily be my granddaughter. And, if this were the old, pre-fertility drug days, she most likely would be.
On the brighter side, some of the research is more positive for us older moms. At the risk of offending young moms everywhere, I quote Dr. Sherman J. Silber, author of How to Get Pregnant With The New Technology. He says older moms not only tend to be more nurturing and better able to handle a child, “they actually have children that are more confident and brighter. By and large, the children are more intelligent," says Dr. Silber. He theorizes that these children are better cared for during the first 24 months of life, a fact that he believes can influence a child's personality and intellectual ability.
Says Rhonda, “I also believe that, being a little older, I might have a little more to give: I have more life experiences and so can focus this phase of my life on sharing those experiences with my child.”

Although there is no medical proof to date, according to the website Mothers Over Forty – The UK’s Premier Resource for Older Mothers and Fathers, editor Jan Andersen says: “There is evidence to suggest that women who become pregnant in there forties are less likely to suffer adverse symptoms during menopause. This is apparently due to the elevated levels of hormones that circulate in the body during pregnancy, which may give some protection against the less pleasant physical aspects of the approaching menopause.”
Suffice it to say that the experience of the menopausal mom is a mixed blessing. The two stages  motherhood and menopause  signal passages in a woman’s life. One tends to symbolize the opening of a door, while the other, the closing of one. However, having experienced some of each, I can honestly say the birth of my daughter makes the onslaught of menopause much more palatable. Because, while my physical body is rebelling in ways which signal the advance of the aging process, the experiences I’m sharing with my three-year-old make me feel just a little younger every day. Still, whenever I hear those 20-something new moms complaining about the perils of motherhood, I find myself thinking, “You should try this when your 50, sister”.