Alpha Mom » Amalah parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Thu, 07 May 2015 14:54:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Throw Yourself A Baby Shower That Isn’t Tacky Wed, 06 May 2015 16:58:20 +0000

First of all, I love your website. It is witty and funny, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

I have a conundrum, and I am hoping you can set me straight. I am in my second trimester (15 weeks) in a new-ish place (2 years), and have not made a whole lot of close friends. We moved to DC for my husband’s job, and I am now working. The issue is a baby shower. It is our first baby. My family lives far away (250-500 miles away.)

My sister advised that she wants to throw me a shower, but she lives 500 miles away, is flakey with financial issues, and is extremely anxious and can barely endure everyday living, never mind plan anything. It would be a situation where she would say she is throwing it, and then it would just never happen. I do have a few close friends, but they just aren’t the type to step forward to do this type of thing. Even though I threw one of them a shower for her first baby last year. And now she is pregnant again.

My thought is to do one of two things: (1) have my husband reach out to one of my close friends in the area and say he is going to throw me a surprise baby shower, and ask for her advice and help, and then get a few of my other friends involved with small tasks (one does decorations, one does invites, etc.) That way there is no one person who has to take it all on. Or (2) the husband and I have a last hurrah cocktail party or barbecue to celebrate freedom before the baby, and just treat it like a big party (with no mention of gifts or anything; just a good time). I love throwing cocktail parties and dinner parties. It is kind of my thing.

Do those options seem like a good idea and NOT tacky?

If you don’t desperately “need” your friends and family to outfit your nursery and buy you baby gear, I would DEFINITELY vote for option 2. It sounds like fun, and steers completely clear of any shower etiquette faux pas, because it’s not a shower.

If you really and truly have your heart set on a “traditional” baby shower, option 1 isn’t the WORST proposition I’ve heard, assuming that none of your friends figure out that you’ve basically conspired with your husband to plan your own fake surprise shower. That would be…kinda yick, yes. I would only attempt this one if you’re really, really confident in your husband’s acting skills and this is really that super important to you.

As for the basic idea of a husband hosting a baby shower: I am fine with it, because in some cases it just makes sense if no one else steps up, or there isn’t an appropriate local hostess. Families are so scattered nowadays that plenty of women end up pregnant away from close friends/relatives, and traveling for a shower isn’t always possible either. I think a partner-hosted surprise shower can be done right — if it’s all about the mom-to-be and making her feel loved/celebrated and not a blatant gift grab. [NO REGISTRY INFO ON INVITES THIS IS THE HILL I WILL DIE ON, YOU GUYS.]  But I must add the caveat that not everyone agrees. You will run the risk of some guests being grossed out by a dude throwing a shower for his own baby. Completely up to you to decide how much weight you care to give their opinion(s).

From your letter, however, it sounds like the traditional shower isn’t all that important to you — you’re more concerned about other people taking on too much responsibility, but still want to do SOMETHING to celebrate, rather than wait around for someone to step up/follow-through and be disappointed in the end.

So. I would go with the Last Hurrah Before Baby party. Do it yourself, as it’s your thing. It’s a great idea and I bet you’ll have more fun than outsourcing balloons and streamers and shower games to flakey and/or unwilling friends. No gifts or registry info on the invites. (Not to say that you can’t register. Just only offer than information up when EXPLICITLY ASKED.) If people do bring baby gifts, take them and put them somewhere not visible to guests that don’t.

Just be prepared, however, that hosting a party at 8/9 months pregnant can be a TOTALLY different experience than what you’re used to. Consider making it a potluck, or a casual Open House sort of thing where people can drop by as opposed to all showing up at once demanding drinks/food on the same schedule. Make it clear on the invites when the party ENDS to minimize stragglers hanging out past your exhaustion point. And maybe treat yo self to a cleaning service post-party!

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The Unhappy Early Riser Mon, 04 May 2015 13:47:56 +0000

Hey there,

Have been following your site for a while, mostly in awe. Now wondering/hoping that in your vast array of tips, tricks and solid research you might have some advice for us.

Our son is about 4.5 months old. He’s always been a terrible sleeper, due to a combination of reflux, wind, confusional arousal an sheer bloody-mindedness. We’ve got it all mostly under control with a reasonable nap schedule he occasionally ignores and one major nighttime wake-up for food. However we just can’t shake his 5am unhappy wake-up. Like clockwork he wakes up at 5, eyes shut and unhappy, making the hoarse barking cry he does when he doesn’t want to wake up. If we hold him or bring him into bed with us he can usually sleep till 7, but then obviously we’re up and this doesn’t always work. Sometimes if we feed him he’ll go back to sleep in his cot, but that then means he won’t eat at 7 and his whole schedule is off. Worth noting he wakes up for his night feed at different times, sometimes less than 3 hours before he wakes up at 5 so I’m not sure if he’s hungry or it’s just soothing him back to sleep, and he’ll go back to sleep without food if we’re holding him. We’ve tried letting him figure it out for himself incase it’s just confusional arousal but it always escalates into full scale awake screaming that doesn’t settle down.

So I know we should be grateful it’s only twice in the night and maybe we just need to let him grow out of it, but we’ve had so little sleep for a while now that every minute counts! Anything you can suggest?

In eternal gratitude

Oh, yes, the way-too-early-whhhhhyyyy-are-you-waking-up waking. All three of my babies did this occasionally — usually thanks to a growth/developmental spurt, teething, or as early-warning sign that a cold or other illness was about to rear it’s ugly, snotty head.

But when “occasionally” turns into “EVERY FREAKING MORNING,” that’s almost always a sign that something in the sleep schedule is off and needs adjusting. A baby who wakes up grumpy but not hungry is probably an over-tired baby. And over-tired babies will NOT do the sensible thing and sleep until they are not over-tired anymore. They will just continue to fight naps and sleep like crap at night and wake up grumpier and grumpier. It’s a delightful cycle, really.

Since you didn’t give details on bedtime and nap times/nap length, I can’t make any SPECIFIC recommendations on what to tweak, but instead I’ll keep it general and give you a few of the more common scheduling “mistakes” parents make that lead to an over-tired early riser problem.

(And I put “mistakes” in quotes because come on, we’re all just desperate, over-tired pawns in the baby sleep game, and the babies KEEP CHANGING ALL THE RULES.)

1) Not enough naps during the day, or naps that are too short or poorly spaced. How many hours should your baby be napping? When should he be taking those naps?  Let these handy dandy age-based feeding/sleeping schedules at The Baby Sleep Site be your guide!

2) Too many long stretches of awake time, especially before bedtime. At four months, his awake/alert time should still be kept pretty short. Like under two hours, especially if your baby tends to get over-tired easily. Which, given the 5 am waking of misery, I’m gonna go ahead and put your baby in that category.

3) A bedtime that is too late or too early. Whenever sleep started going wonky and haywire for us, a change in bedtime was usually the first thing we tried. And we usually moved it earlier, not later. (That whole “sleep begets sleep” concept.) Babies need a set number of sleep hours, so if he’s not napping consistently for you (or naps are all super short or skipped entirely), he’s GOT to make up for that loss at nighttime. Try moving his bedtime earlier, two hours or less after his last nap and see what happens.

4) Inconsistency in parental reactions to wakings. Treat the 5 am waking like his other night waking. Unless you have a baby who naturally wakes up super early, refreshed and happy, consider anything before 6 am a “night waking.” Whatever you’re doing then to get him back to sleep at 2 or 3 am, do the same at 5 am. Keep the room dark (blackout shades maybe?) and the routine the same so he knows this isn’t playtime. The whole “if he eats at 5 he won’t eat at 7 and then his whole schedule is off” isn’t a dealbreaker here, because I suspect you’re going to look at the Baby Sleep Site and see a couple modifications you can make to the current schedule anyway. BUT  if you really think he’s not hungry at 5 am, try just patting and soothing him with your voice, or turning on a musical toy or some other sleep cue you can incorporate into bedtime. (God bless you, Fisher Price Crib Aquarium.)

That said, I distinctly remember my middle son doing the 5/6 am waking thing, and I would usually just bring him to bed with us, shove a boob in his mouth and go back to sleep for an hour or two. He’d maybe take two sucks and pass back out. But I ALSO distinctly remember that extra waking coming to an abrupt end once we figured out a better nap schedule for him. (Hint: He wasn’t napping nearly enough.) So…do as I say now and not as I did then, I guess.

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How To Make New Mom Friends Fri, 01 May 2015 13:47:13 +0000

Dearest ever Wise and Wonderful Amalah,

My little guy is four months old and I don’t know how to talk to other moms. We’ve been going to Baby and Me Yoga for about two months now and it’s the same group of women pretty much every week. I’ve started going to story time at the library and I see the same moms again. I think we all want to be friends, but we’re all really awkward, like it’s the first day of high school and we’re smiling shyly at each other, but are too scared to say anything. I’ve pulled out a couple topics to try to get things started, but they’ve all fallen pretty flat.

I’ve tried asking about their kids, because everybody loves to talk about their kids, right? But what are you supposed to say… is he crawling yet? Obviously not, I see the baby right there. I tried TV, but none of them watch “The Bachelor”, so what am I supposed to do with that? I don’t watch any other super dramatic shows that warrant discussion every week. I’ve asked about the cute outfits their babies wear, but it doesn’t go further than that. I get the feeling they want to chat too, but are just as awkward because we all hang around after these things sort of half smiling at each other.

I moved here about three years ago and haven’t made too many friends yet, and I was really hoping these mom and baby things would get things rolling in the friend department. I don’t want this opportunity to get away from me, because they’re going to have to go back to work soon and then where will I be? FRIENDLESS FOREVER!

So, dear Wise and Wonderful, any advice on how to talk to these ladies? How have I gotten this far in life and still don’t know how to make friends?

Aimless Amiga

Ah, the mom friends dilemma. Or the lack of mom friends dilemma. We’ve all been there. I’m sure many of us still are, or feel that way sometimes.

It’s admittedly really hard to force these things — to build a solid social circle based solely on the fact that you are all moms who have shown up to the same activity. Or whose children attend the same school or program. These connections aren’t usually enough, in my experience, to build lasting friendships that continue once you and/or your children move on past whatever brought you together in the first place. I’ve cycled through a few mom-friend groups that despite all of our best efforts, drifted apart once our kids’ activity/school situation changed. A couple emails, a couple attempts at organizing reunion playdates, followed by a birthday party invite where their child is greeted by yours with a “Who is that? I don’t remember him.” and then…sigh.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. The opposite of that. Ignore my Debbie Downer intro and definitely keeping trying. Because you might connect with someone — maybe not all of them — on a deeper level beyond just “WE BOTH HAVE BABIES.” And that’s the kind of friendship you really want, and that’s the kind that will last even if she goes back to work and you stay home and you both kinda get bored of Baby and Me Yoga and would rather leave the babies at home and go to happy hour together instead. You never know when or where you’ll meet that friend, but they are definitely worth searching for.

Here’s what I would try: I’d invite them to go somewhere with me. If the yoga or story time isn’t immediately followed up by naptime for all the babies, go ahead and put an invite out during the awkward sitting-around-smiling-at-each-other period. “So I think I’m going to grab coffee/snack/lunch at X. Anybody want to join us?” If even one person accepts, that’s definitely a sign that she, too, wants to make an effort to make friends but isn’t sure how.

If you live close by, you can invite them over to your house. That one might be a bit premature, given that your babies are so young and non-mobile. I typically invited people over once our babies/toddlers were more “playdate” aged. Then it seems more about the babies’ need for social/peer interaction rather than your own DESPERATE NEED FOR A GROWN-UP TO TALK TO.

If they don’t seem like the spontaneous types, or everybody typically has to go home for naps after the activity, try asking if you can get email addresses. Or phone numbers if they all text a lot. Then you can plan a group get-together at your home, or suggest a trip to a park or open play at a baby-friendly gym or…something, anything. This might push everybody past that “oh god I want to talk and be friends but I don’t know how oh god it’s so awkward” phase because EFFORT. LET’S MAKE AN EFFORT TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.

Just be prepared for more awkward small talk, and possibly the realization that maybe you actually don’t have anything in common with these ladies beyond the “WE HAVE BABIES” thing. It happens. It happens a lot and it can be kinda disappointing. But it doesn’t mean FRIENDLESS FOREVER. It just means not yet, not with these people. And then you sign up for something else and you try all over again.

I think it gets easier as your kids get older — they seek out their own playmates and don’t tend to overthink it the way we do. Then you see if maybe those playmates’ moms are cool and want to hang out with you, or at least fill up an afternoon now and then with grown-up chit chat while your kids beat on each other.

I think it also gets easier as your kids get older because you get…less desperate and try-hard about it. Like I used to try to force friendships just for the sake of having someone I could call a “friend”…even if we had nothing in common and maybe I didn’t even necessarily enjoy her company all that much. At least it was company, right? Now I’m the first to admit that ain’t nobody got time for that, but somehow over time I’ve made more friends than ever before — some moms, some non-moms. People I’ve met through my kids or my work or my husband’s work and just been: I like you. Gimme your email/phone so I can invite you somewhere. If they don’t go for it, their loss. If they do, yay! Maybe it just takes practice, or getting comfortable being the initiator who makes the first move. Sounds like you’ve got the perfect chance to come out of your own shell and kickstart these ladies’ social lives. Go for it! And then go for it again.


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Bad Combo: Friendships, Pregnancies, and Jealousy Wed, 29 Apr 2015 19:38:58 +0000

Some time in January, a close friend of mine confided in me an issue she was and continues to have with her spouse. She’s in her early 30’s, he in his late 20’s. She desperately wants children and he is adamant about not having children at all. They had casual conversations about “if we/you were pregnant”, schools, parenting methods, etc. But never a serious conversation regarding if they were both on board with starting a family. Her spouse decided that he did not want to have children, and she was understandably devastated. I was supportive and comforted her whenever she needed me.

Fast forward two months, I’m engaged on a Saturday and we found out the following Monday that I’m pregnant with our first baby! My fiancé and I are beyond excited, and at first, so was my friend. Shortly after, if my pregnancy was brought up in conversation it was received with cold responses and snippy comments. So I stopped talking about it around her completely.

Two days ago, she sent me a message stating I wasn’t comforting enough when she communicated her marital issues with me, that she resented my pregnancy, and would further distance herself from me in order to prevent from ruining our friendship. Two days after professing her feelings, and ignoring my responses, she sends me photos from some festival she’s at, like nothing happened.

I don’t know how to deal with this. This is my first pregnancy, and I’m incredibly hurt that she took jabs at me by accusing me of being a bad friend, stating that she needed to distance herself from me, but messages me when it’s convenient for her. I love her, but I am not okay with this. My friendship is not available only when it’s convenient for other people! Is this friendship salvageable? Help! I don’t want to be a shitty friend!

Hormonal and Confused

This question was submitted with the subject line of “Is my friend being self-centered?” Which…not really, technically. More like egregiously unfair and temporarily unhinged.

Look, it sucks that she’s having this issue with her spouse. But it’s not YOUR issue. It’s not something you can fix for her, and it’s certainly not something that can or should carry any weight on your family planning decisions. Your friend can’t expect the world to stop reproducing just because she and her spouse didn’t have a VERY IMPORTANT DISCUSSION BEFORE GETTING MARRIED.

I’m generally pretty sympathetic when a friendship gets strained over a pregnancy when one person is dealing with infertility — that’s an emotional minefield and not everybody is strong enough not to let the jealousy/resentment creep in when they feel fundamentally broken at their own inability to conceive. But even then, my advice is basically what you’ve already done: Be supportive and listen when your friend wants to vent, let the subject drop when it’s clear that they don’t want to talk about it. Being available as an emotional punching bag for them, however? Not so much. Pregnancy is not a zero sum game, and it’s just unfair and unproductive to lash out at a friend’s joy because you’re feeling sorry for yourself.

And that’s what your friend did. Although as opposed to infertility, she’s in a mess of her own making, quite frankly. The kids/no kids talk is not something to sort of…dance around vaguely  and sort of hope you’ll both end up on the same page. If she really desperately wanted children (and always knew she desperately wanted children) she should have communicated that to him from the start — if he was undecided or wishy washy about it, you stop and you figure that shit out. It doesn’t sound like he drastically changed course on her — she never pressed the issue, maybe made some assumptions from some hypothetical conversations, and then it turned out that no, those really WERE hypotheticals and he really doesn’t want kids. And if they were BOTH actually undecided/wishy-washy about kids before they got married and just sort of naturally ended up on opposite sides of the fence, well…there was always a chance of that happening. She took a gamble and lost.

And that SUCKS. It really does. I do feel badly for her, because there’s not much compromise to be had here. If they stay married, one of them is going to end up living a very different life than they envisioned or wanted. She’ll either need to accept and respect that his decision is final, or spend the rest of her fertile years trying to change his mind or hoping for an “accident” that he clearly won’t be happy about. Which: UGH.

Or they split up, and each find a partner better suited to their family/no-family plans.

So that’s what she’s dealing with, obviously, and sadly decided to take out her frustration on the nearest pregnant target: You. You have everything she wants and she threw a little temper tantrum about it. That also sucks, and there’s no reason you should have to put up with that. She asked for distance, give it to her. Give it to her without guilt or hesitation and enjoy your pregnancy. Call her out on the mixed signals she’s sending if you want. If she ignores you, retreat even further away, because that’s just frustrating.

I wouldn’t ever say a friendship is “unsalvageable,” especially when I don’t know you two, or your history, or even her side of this story. But from a practical standpoint, I’m not predicting awesome things for this friendship. You’re going to have a baby and she won’t. Even the best of friendships don’t always survive that situation — the new mom disappears too deeply into mommyhood, or the non-mom just doesn’t really care/understand what she’s going through, etc. Or everybody just sort of drifts apart naturally over time, and it’s not really anybody’s “fault.” Your impending motherhood has already exposed some very deep cracks in this relationship. She resents you for being pregnant, she will probably resent you for having a child. Unless she finds a better way to deal with her marital issue and finds her own peace with the situation, your friendship is not available to be her scapegoat.


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Dealing With Pregnancy Busybodies Mon, 27 Apr 2015 16:34:52 +0000

Hi Amy,

I’m new to your blog, but could really use your advice on determining when and how to share the news of our pregnancy.

Thanks to my husband’s work as a resident physician, we inherited a social group when we moved across the country three years ago. There have been moments where I’ve felt truly grateful for the friendship of other women whose lives have been similarly turned upside down by their husband’s career. Many times though, I’ve retreated as I’ve dealt with elements of superficiality and a lack of concern for privacy. Case in point, one of the first questions that I am regularly asked in the first or second time interacting with wives and female residents is: When are you starting a family?

At first I thought that their interest must reflect a genuine interest in getting to know me, but after invitations to further the friendship went unanswered, I realized that they just wanted to know… for their own information.

Jump ahead two years and I’m navigating the same choppy relationships, though often from the sideline. In the meantime, I’ve been repetitively ‘checked in with’ and essentially expected to keep them abreast of any updates, to the point that they notice and ask why I’m not accepting a glass of wine. This happens even when I haven’t spoken to them in 4 months.

Simultaneously, about 6 of these women are due in the next 6 months. Every gathering they share who else just announced and give a roll call of due dates.

Amy, I’m 11 weeks pregnant and over the moon. My husband and I are so excited to become parents and meet our little one. This social situation is a wet blanket. How can I own this information that they feel so entitled to? Can you help my think of a classy reaction to the husbands and their snarky ‘something in the water’ comments? Is there any way to avoid alienating the few friends I have while still asserting that my pregnancy has nothing to do with theirs?

I would so appreciate your thoughts on this, Amy. It’s the silliest thing to let this steal my joy and I know that. But until I figure out how to deal with it, I’m keeping myself and my pregnancy ‘in the closet’.


You’ve found yourself tangentially pulled into the orbit of a pack of bored but harmless busybodies, for whom life currently revolves around getting pregnant and having babies.

I can think of no better reaction than…shrug.

This feels like a big deal, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m dismissing your feelings when I tell you it’s NOT a big deal, but…it’s not a big deal. You tell them whenever you want to tell them — at 12 weeks, 13 weeks, once you start showing, or only after you’ve shared your happy news with people you genuinely care about and who you know will genuinely share your joy, rather than just circle around while chanting ONE OF US ONE OF US WE ACCEPT YOU ONE OF US.

Casually add your due date to the roll call, or just give a knowing smile and a “Yep!” when they zero in on your non-alcoholic beverage. Accept their superficial shrieks of congrats graciously. The news is out there, but it is still your own, and their knowing/not knowing or caring/not caring has no real impact on you. Because again: You’re semi-kinda acquaintances with a group of bored but harmless busybodies, for whom life revolves around getting pregnant and having babies.

Even though you are currently pregnant and going to have a baby, that doesn’t mean you’re one of them, and you shouldn’t feel obligated to join in their weird EVERYBODY GET PREGNANT NOWWWWWW reindeer game or whatever it is. You don’t owe them detailed updates on doctors’ visits, test results, ultrasounds, shower plans. You probably owe them some politeness, since it doesn’t sound like you’ve been egregiously mistreated by this group — they just aren’t your BFF jam and that’s totally okay. If they start asking questions you don’t want to answer, go vague and then pose the same or different question to another pregnant woman who seems more talkative. (And it doesn’t sound like you’ll have a problem finding one.)

That said, try to give some of these women the benefit of the doubt. It can be awful nice having a friend who’s also pregnant at the same time as you, even if you’re weeks or months apart. It can be even NICER to have a friend or group of friends with babies the same age. Since you only see this group in full-on pack mode, it’s possible that as INDIVIDUALS, there is potential for the kind of real, non-superficial friendship you’re after. Maybe get a couple of those other pregnant ladies away from the Queen Bees of the group and you’ll find someone you have stuff in common with, some playgroup potential or maybe just one woman you can text or call when you need a break.

Or not. Maybe this pack is just always going to be the arms-length sort of friends who are nice to your face but think you’re kinda stuck up behind your back because you don’t really share their priorities or approach to social situation. You can still be polite and a nice, well-mannered grown-up to them.

If you want to keep your pregnancy under wraps for awhile longer until you’ve cooled on their years of pestering you, do it. Just remember that WHENEVER the news comes out (and it will come out, so consider just telling them before they ask again so it’s at least on your own terms), it’s still YOUR news, not theirs. Their mass group pregnancies still have nothing to do with YOUR pregnancy. If they want to pretend to think so, whatever. If a bunch of doctors want to make dumb jokes about your city’s water supply being tainted with fertility drugs, whatever. Shrug it off and think how lucky you are that you have more going on in your life than caring SO DEEPLY that everybody needs to start families on the exact same timeframe…and how lucky you are that YOUR husband tells better jokes at parties, because “something in the water” WOW SO LAME YOU GUYS.


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The Terrible (Horrible Not-So-Good Very Screechy) Threes Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:01:41 +0000

Dearest Amalah,

I have a wonderful, mostly agreeable, sweet 3 year old boy who I love with all my heart. What I do not love are some of the sounds that come out of his preshus little mouth. The screeeeeeeching and the whiiiiiiiining when he doesn’t get his way is really starting to get to me. We’ve tried ignoring him when he makes this sound, we’ve tried time-outs, we’ve taken away tv time, we acknowledge his feeling of frustration/anger/sadness. All to no avail. We constantly encourage him to use his big boy voice and words (which he has a ton of by the way. This kid is constantly chatting and telling detailed stories.) So what else can I try as a way to lessen the amount of whining and screeching? Sticker chart for good behavior? Or do we just have to wait for him to mature? Will this get better as we get closer to the age of 4 (that’s not til November).


Save my Ear Drums in Philadelphia

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: One of the main reasons I am not having any more children is because I do not care to deal with another 3 year old.

My current and last 3 year old turns 4 in less than two months and I am counting the minutes, y’all.

You’d think after three children I’d have an amazing answer to your question, or at least some vaguely helpful insight or guidance. Instead I’m thinking back to this morning, when my 3 year old started in with the whiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnning and the screeeeeeeeeching before he was even out of bed, and did not let it up for a single freaking minute until I dropped him off at school and maaaaayyyyyybe pealed away from the curbside drop off a little too enthusiastically. Everything was a problem, everything was not what he wanted, every request triggered an argument. He demanded custody of toys that were not his, he became violently and suddenly anti-sock for some reason (OKAY FINE WHO CARES), he did not want the strawberries I gave him until it was too late to eat the strawberries, and oh my God, it just went on and on.

We ignore. We redirect. We use three-minute time-outs and a star/behavior chart. We take away privileges if the behavior escalates into rule breaking (throwing toys, hitting his brothers, etc.). We send him to quiet time and often to bed early in an attempt to keep him well-rested. We offer frequent healthy snacks and meals to keep him from getting hangry. We try to stay calm and consistent. Sometimes we fail and raise our voices in a desperate attempt to just startle the freaking whining out of him, which I’m not proud of, but gaaaaaahhhhhhhhh child PLEASE.

I cannot lie. None of it really works all that well. I mean, sometimes, sure. We might win an individual tantrum battle now and again but overall we’re losing the overall “I am unhappy about something and am going to react in the most draining, annoying way possible” war.

(From what I’ve heard, he’s more or less perfectly behaved at school. Just a bit stubborn, is all. So I guess that’s good?)

So I don’t know. Maybe we are just spectacularly inept at just this one age, but after living through this three times I am tempted to say that the only way through 3 years old is through. It’s a maturity thing. Your 3 year old is like the preschool equivalent of an angsty tween, stuck in between true babyhood/toddlerhood and little kid-dom. He has many, many emotions and very little control over them, and while the vocabulary and expressive language skills are GREAT when he’s calm, they still tend to go right out the window when he’s upset and he reverts back to crying instead.

So you just have to do your best to teach him self-calming strategies, attempt to fend off the freak-outs before they happen, and keep on working and working on getting him to talk to you about what he wants and how he’s feeling instead of tantrumming. Let him know he is loved unconditionally, but set limits to what you’ll tolerate (especially out in public).

I know. That’s a garbage paragraph of advice because you’re doing all that, every day, over and over again. But you just gotta keep doing it and get through this age/stage. He will become a 100% lovely, non-screeching human being at some point, I promise. (Though I’m still waiting on my other two to hit the 100% mark…we still have a somewhat screechy household when they are all together and up in each other’s business.) Don’t take his behavior now too personally, or as a mark of your failing as a parent. He’s just 3. And it sounds like he’s REALLY GOOD AT IT.


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Sex After a C-Section: What’s “Normal?” Wed, 22 Apr 2015 09:09:31 +0000

Hello Lovely,

I hope you and the boys are well. My question today is regarding sex after c-sections.

I’m three months out from having an unplanned c-section. There were no complications. It took me about four weeks until I could stand for longer than it takes to shower, I bled for six weeks, and we didn’t have sex until after that. I still have patches of numb skin on my lower belly, but I don’t generally have pain.

Except for when we’ve had sex. For a few days after sex, I’ll have random stabbing pains on the right side of my incision (which was always the more painful side), occasional burning pains across it, stomach pains, and spotting.

Is this normal? Did you or others have bleeding like this? Is there an end date for this issue? The worry wart in me is afraid my uterus will burst open one of these days.

It’s hard enough to want to have sex right now; I’m feeling pretty resentful that I have to pay for it for days afterward.

So I will share some anecdotal experiences (three-time c-sectioner here, ahoy!), but I do need to insist quite heartily that you give your doctor a call as soon as your done reading this column. Please describe your symptoms in detail to him/her.

Your symptoms do not necessarily sound completely out of the realm of “normal” post-c-section symptoms, but they are still nothing I would personally go on ignoring without checking in with my doctor. Post-delivery bleeding (lochia) is a weird-ass thing: Despite the hospital discharge instructions that tell you to call your OB IMMEDIATELY if the bleeding stops and then starts up again, mine regularly did just that, for MONTHS. And my doctor was always like, “yeah, you’re fine, totes normal.” You may still be slowly shedding lochia and it’s understandable that sex might…speed that process up temporarily.

Your spotting could ALSO be a sign your body is starting to mayyyybe think about menstruating again. So when you do have sex, take precautions and DO NOT rely on breastfeeding as birth control. Assume you could be ovulating at any time. (This goes for ALL OF Y’ALL, by the way, spotting or not. Breastfeeding is terribly ineffective birth control so don’t get lazy out there, ladies.)

I also am familiar with the incision symptoms you describe — random stabby pain, general tenderness, one side being generally more painful/slower to heal than the other. I can’t really remember exactly how long they continued…12 weeks seems kinda long though? (Perhaps some commenters with sharper memories can chime in below.)

THAT SAID. This is not something you ignore. Your symptoms could very well be a sign of some low-level infection (not necessarily in the incision itself — regular bleeding after sex can mean inflammation or infection of your vagina, cervix, etc.), or your body has held on to a dissolvable stitch and it’s causing irritation. (Have you taken your temperature recently? Any fever?) No, your uterus is probably not going to spontaneously burst wide open at this point, but I think it would be smart to have your doctor check your incision and maybe do a few swabs to make sure you don’t need another round of antibiotics or something.

If your doctor thinks this is all normal and everything checks out infection-wise, I would then start focusing on sex, and vary up how you’re doing it. Waiting six weeks is the MINIMUM guideline, by the way — you don’t need to feel pressured to immediately dive back into regular vaginal sex right at that point, if you’re not ready.  Some women simply need more time to heal up down there and THAT’S OKAY. It sounds like you are healing on the “slower” side of things, given what you said about needing four full weeks of mostly rest before your could really even stand up. Also okay!!  Talk to your partner about how sex is making you feel. Maybe he needs to slow down and be gentler, maybe you need to try some different positions that allow your ab muscles to stay relaxed and not engage so much. Try taking a hot shower after sex to keep your muscles from spasming/tightening up. OR…just table vaginal sex for a few more weeks and do other things that are fun and intimate. (coughVIBRATORcough) Think back to the final weeks of pregnancy and how you two likely had to get creative to make things happen in the sex department — it’s the same deal now as your body heals.

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Dealing With a Know-it-All, Opinionated Mom Friend Mon, 20 Apr 2015 14:06:49 +0000

Hi Amy -

I’m 25 weeks along in my first pregnancy and have run into recurring issues with an over-opinionated friend – we’ll call her Jane. Jane has a few children of her own, which seems to make her feel that she has a license to dispense unsolicited advice to me regarding my pregnancy and the future care of my infant on a continual basis. Not only that – she seems to relish the opportunity to share with me her own pregnancy/delivery horror stories, and other equally negative parenthood experiences. She’s even gone so far as to share with me all the things that could be wrong with my baby under the guise of complimenting what an excellent parent I’ll be “no matter what” – which really pisses me off as I feel these kinds of back-handed compliments are completely unnecessary and rude. It’s not the fact that she cares enough to give me advice. It’s the pushy, passive aggressive, self-righteous manner in which it is given, combined with the fact that I am NOT ASKING for her opinion in the first place about what kind of parent I’ll be if I have a child with health problems, which OBGYN to select, best hospital to deliver, whether to breast-feed or formula feed, etc.

So far when this friend has overstepped the line I bite my tongue rather than putting her in her place, for fear that my raging pregnancy hormones will take over and turn what should be a constructive conversation into a full-on brawl. How can I politely put an end to these unwanted preaching sessions? Or am I completely overreacting?

On the other end of the Internet, I’m picturing many many readers nodding their heads wildly and knowingly at their screens right now. I think we’ve ALL been friends with a Jane, or encountered a Jane. Or been deep in an internet comment section packed full of multiple Janes.

Jane is the WORST when it’s your first pregnancy. Jane will never bother you as much as she does right now, and it’s a combination of you both: She’s forgotten what it’s like to be pregnant for the first time, and is talking to you like she talks to all her non-rookie mom friends. (Who probably LOVE sharing their pregnancy/delivery horror stories and not-totally-awesome parenting experiences with each other, because…well, that’s what we moms do, once we’re on the other side of things.) Maybe she thinks she’s doing you a favor by “keeping it real” or something, and has no idea that you’re secretly screaming SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UPPPPPP at her from inside your head. On your side of things, you’re (understandably) a bit nervous or anxious about all of the unknowns, jacked up full of hormones, and constantly question your reactions to things. Am I justified in being pissed off right now or is my blood sugar just low? Is she really being rude and passive-aggressive or is she just a sort of lonely, clueless bossypants who doesn’t realize how often she’s assvicing you?

Looking back on my first pregnancy, I can say that yes, I DEFINITELY overreacted to more than a few Janes. Many of them really were well-meaning, trying to assure me that things like emergency c-sections weren’t that bad (they had one! or more than one! X. Y and Z happened and then everything was fine!) once my doctor started fretting about my baby’s size and position. Meanwhile I was scared to freaking DEATH of having an emergency c-section and didn’t want to hear anything about them, good or bad. So I would be like, I DIDN’T ASK FOR YOUR OPINION when really, they were just telling me their stories. Because they’d also forgotten about being pregnant for the first time and scared to freaking death about any number of things, and what it felt like when someone else talked about those things in a way that was anything other than, “Everything is going to be fine and what you’re scared of will never, ever happen.”

Then I had an emergency c-section and was like, “Oh. Talking to other moms about that experience is really helpful and cathartic, because everything really was fine, even though that happened.”

I try very, very hard not to be a Jane. I only offer up advice/stories when explicitly asked. (Luckily thanks to this column, I GET ASKED A LOT.) I admit it’s sometimes harder than it should be to put myself back in the other person’s shoes and bite my tongue in the middle of what TO ME seems like just a matter of fact experience or opinion. I may think I’m trying to say that it’s okay if exclusive breastfeeding doesn’t work out and you have to supplement; she thinks I’m telling her a horror story because I secretly think breastfeeding won’t work out for her, either. I mention my 10-pound baby and emergency c-section because hey, yeah, that’s just what happened to me; she’s like SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UPPPPPPP.

Since I’m not there during your conversations with Jane, and I don’t know this particular Jane, I can’t tell you for sure if you’re overreacting to well-meaning mom-chatter…or about 20 weeks overdue from ripping her passive-aggressive ass a new one. Either way, I typically err of the side of taking care of your emotional/mental health during your pregnancy. Jane is driving you crazy. You clearly do not enjoy your time and/or conversations with Jane. It’s totally okay to minimize your time and contact with Jane for the rest of your pregnancy (or beyond, if the assvice continues). You don’t mention any specific context for your friendship with her — is she an unavoidable work friend or someone you’re actively choosing to spend time with? — but I would personally opt for politely avoiding one-on-one conversations with her as much as humanly possible. And when you do have to talk to her, immediately change the topic of conversation back to like, work or TV or non-pregnancy/parenting stuff whenever you can.

You’re probably never going to find the perfect words to tell her to shut up and keep her opinions to herself, because I can all but guarantee she’ll be taken aback, get super defensive and be like, “but we’re just talking! I just told you you’ll be a great mom no matter what! what’s wrong with saying that?”  She’ll probably tell you that you are overreacting or mention your hormones and gaaaahhhhh I wouldn’t blame you for going nuclear apoplectic at her at that point. And let’s avoid that. Let’s just avoid her, for awhile. It’s really okay, and on the bright side: You’re going to be a great non-Jane to many future first-time moms-to-be thanks to this experience, and the world really needs more of those.

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The Post-Pregnancy Body Changes That Nobody Talks About Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:39:18 +0000

Hi Amy – I have a two part question related to postpartum abs.

I am 99% sure I have diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) after having twins (who were 7.5lbs EACH at 37 weeks delivered vaginally) and being on bedrest for 5 months before and 2 months after. This was actually baby number 3 & (surprise) 4 and not one doctor ever mentioned this condition to me. I wonder if other women have the same problem and don’t know about it… My question is – there is conflicting advice about how to help correct it. I have been exercising for 3 months now doing pretty much everything you can traditionally think of (pilates, running, stairs, lifting weights, eating right, drinking water, etc.), lost all the baby weight and then some and am in the best shape of my life – but I still look about 3- 4 months pregnant! And we are talking 2nd baby 3-4 months! BUT a minor number of fitness instructions on the internet argue if you have diastasis recti and do traditional ab exercises (crunches) you actually make it worse because it causes the muscles to “bulge”. They employ the Tupler method and stress recovery of the transversus abdominis muscle (TVA) first. I have asked my OB/GYN, GP and a couple of different fitness instructors and they don’t know what the world I am talking about! Now, let me stress – I have realistic expectations here. I don’t expect to look like I did before ever being pregnant. But I sure as hell don’t want to be spending my precious time on exercises that make it worse! Is surgery the only thing that will correct diastasis recti?

Speaking of surgery – how can I tell if I have an umbilical hernia? My stomach is a mess of excess skin (that children’s book the saggy, baggy elephant comes to mind) and I just assumed that was it. But above my belly button there is a protrusion. It doesn’t hurt at all but…it’s odd. With all the pushing I did with the twins, could that have caused one? Because you mentioned those were kinda like sleeping giants that are going to wake eventually. And if it just excess skin – is the only way to correct that surgery? Yeah, everyone is different and give it time, etc., etc. But…really…what is the deal??? Twins is just an entirely different ball game compared to my two singles.

Thanks for any help you can send my way!


So I experienced diastasis recti right out of the gate, with pregnancy number one. Being a smallish person carrying a 9 pound, 15 ounce baby will apparently do that. It never corrected itself, but I at least didn’t notice it ever got worse after my subsequent pregnancies (with more reasonably sized 7 pounders).

I, too, got a lot of conflicting advice and recommendations from doctors, trainers and the Internet. Here’s my basic take: For some women, the separation can be improved through exercise, and for some women, the separation is permanent and requires surgical correction. I was in the latter group, personally.

I actually think the Wikipedia page on diastasis recti (I KNOW I KNOW) is pretty darn realistic, particularly the “treatment” part. There are a list of generally approved exercises that may or may not “fix” the problem, but are at least known not to make things worse. Incorrect exercises that involve pushing the muscles out (like crunches) have been found to make the problem worse in many women. That could just be anecdotal (since as you’ve learned, this just isn’t a problem that gets a lot of attention and grant money to study!), but I personally erred on the side of caution and chose other exercises after coming across that theory. Core strength exercises that focused on pulling my ab muscles in, mostly.  I HAD done a lot of crunches after baby number one because that’s what my OB/GYN suggested, so who knows. Maybe that’s why my separation remained so prominent.

When I consulted plastic surgeons, though, I learned that my diastasis recti was really pretty bad. Like over three solid inches of separation, so my “abs” were basically way over on my sides. I also had that lovely pouch of saggy, stretch-marked skin around my belly button. I’d lost weight and gotten in fairly good shape, and if anything my stomach looked WORSE, because without a little excess weight around my midsection it was so much more obvious that nothing was where it was supposed to be. So I don’t know. I honestly feel like I’d done everything I could and the choices were either to live with it, or fix it.

And I was okay living with it, except that after Ike was born my OB/GYN pressed on my belly button and told me I had an umbilical hernia. This is ALSO a super common thing that no one warns you about. They typically happen to women who have been pregnant a few times, or who have a multiple birth pregnancy. You’ve had four children via three pregnancies, so it’s entirely possible the protrusion you’re noticing is a hernia. Or not! Sometimes stuff just settles back weird in that area. The only way to know is to consult a doctor and have them feel around your belly button. (My hernia was not at all visible, but only noticeable if you pressed on it.)

My hernia became increasingly tender in the years after my third son, Ike’s birth — tender to the touch, but also bothersome when I bent over to pick something up, or had to carry anything heavy (like my toddler). This was evidence that the hernia was worsening, and after talking to my doctor and  reading up on the complications that could happen down the road (think emergency surgery to correct a puncture wound in your intestines!), I decided to get it fixed. Surgery is the only way to fix an adult umbilical hernia. Babies are born with them fairly often and those can heal without surgery, but for ones that develop later in life that doesn’t happen. Again, you need to talk to a doctor and have them assess your own personal risk and make their own recommendation.

So after three pregnancies, three c-sections, and now a need to go back under the knife for ANOTHER abdominal surgery, I made the call that I would get the tummy tuck at the same time. Goodbye extra skin, goodbye diastasis recti. It’s a big decision, a major surgery with significant recovery time, and (obviously) a big out-of-pocket expense. My insurance covered the hernia repair part, which lowered my personal costs (since the insurance pay out shoulders some of the anesthesia and OR fees), but it’s not something I would be all, “OH JUST DO IT YOU’LL BE SO HAPPY” to everybody struggling with diastasis recti and other post-pregnancy body changes. Personally, I am thrilled and entirely comfortable with my decision. Pregnancy — while wonderful and amazing and all that — broke a few things that I was unable to fix on my own. Plastic surgery is often reconstructive surgery, which is how I view mine.

Ladies out there — did your ab muscles separate? Did it ever improve on its own?  Have you been able to improve it with exercise? If so, what kind, how often, how long? If not, any other tips for minimizing the pooch or feeling better/stronger in general? Anything else that the miracle of life did to your stomach that you would like to rant about?

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Toddler Attachments: What’s Normal? Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:12:24 +0000

Hi Amy,

My daughter is 14 months old. She sees her dad every other weekend and Wednesdays (this arrangement started when she was 10 months old). I am an older than average mother and I was emotionally stressed during my pregnancy. I work outside the home and my daughter is in daycare (she seems to like her provider and the other kids). I love my daughter more than anything in the world. I am very nurturing- I still nurse, we co sleep, we play and read. We have a pretty consistent schedule. Except for the first couple of times I had to drop her off at her dad’s she doesn’t cry for me and now she wants to go to him and for the last few weeks when her dad brings her home she doesn’t want to come to me. I try not to feel rejected when she doesn’t want to come to me after I haven’t been with her all weekend but it does get to me. Is this within normal behavior? Just a phase? It also concerns me that she has recently been going up to strangers with no fear with her arms up like she wants to be held.

Thank you.

Absolutely normal, although I know it can sting. But take heart: Your daughter’s “rejection” of you around her father is in fact, evidence of her secure, confident attachment to YOU.

Yes, really. I can’t say ALL toddlers and young children do this, but the vast majority of parents I know (and I include myself here) have had their child go through a preferred parent phase. And anecdotally at least, the “preferred parent” tends to be the parent who is NOT the primary caregiver. She doesn’t spend as much time with her dad as you, and she’s old enough to be aware that her time with him is limited and special. The fact that maybe she’d prefer more time with him has NOTHING to do with her wanting less time with you. Toddlers her age just don’t really think in those zero sum terms yet.

My sons all went through a DADDY DADDY DADDY phase, where suddenly Daddy coming home was the greatest thing in the world and Daddy leaving for work was the absolute worst. Me? Meh. Our babysitter would show up and I’d head to my home office and they wouldn’t even acknowledge the transition. Or I’d pick them up from school and they’re be like, “oh hey” while DADDY got the big YAYYYYY response with big hugs and kisses for performing the same task. They wanted Daddy to give baths and read bedtime stories, not me.

It passes. It really does. Some toddlers will even reverse course and suddenly prefer the other parent, to the point of having separation anxiety.

(That’s my youngest right now. He flipped from his dad to me at some point this year and let me tell you: As much as it hurts to not feel like the “favorite” it can also be somewhat exhausting and guilt-inducing when your child openly prefers you and demands your attention/presence 100% of the time.)

But point is: Your daughter is deeply, healthily attached to you, to the point that she feels comfortable separating from you – and even pushing you away a little bit, deliberately or otherwise – because she knows you will always be there for her. Your love is unconditional and you are a safe, reliable presence in her world. This is a good thing. You’re doing things right, Mama.

As for the stranger thing…also normal. She’s too little to understand the danger or that it’s an inappropriate boundary. She’s a baby with a lot of kind, loving adults in her life and she sees the world as a whole as kind and loving. There is plenty of time before this worldview needs to be shattered. You really can’t start on the “stranger danger” talks until she’s about 3 or 4, and even then you don’t want to instill a fear of all strangers, but more of a healthy note of caution about certain situations. (Someone asking her to get in their car, claiming that you sent them, asking for hugs, uncomfortable touching, etc. And since non-strangers can do all these things too, it’s really best to focus on red flag behaviors/situations, rather than JUST the stranger aspect.) In the meantime, stay close in situations where she’s prone to approaching strangers this way (but no need to hover/helicopter). Most adults will think it’s cute, honestly, and you might notice that she’s choosing people she sees as mommy/daddy/grandparent types.

And once again, remind yourself that this behavior is yet another sign that your daughter feels safe and secure in her place in the world, and that’s a great foundation for a happy, well-adjusted child (and adult).

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