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Shortly after Truman was born, I had a revelation: The mall is filled with babies.
I had never noticed. As a lifelong childless career girl (or so I thought, ha-ha), I had developed some particularly effective baby blinders, which enabled me to move though life blissfully unaware of the cooing, gooing, and even outright wailing going on around me. On any given shopping excursion, I could make my way from Macys to Starbucks to Sephora to Illuminations and back again with nary a pause to admire a toothless grin (bypassing Gymboree, A Pea in the Pod, and Gap Baby altogether).
But as soon as I strolled into the mall with Truman in tow, the under-ones seemed to come out of the woodwork (or, well, the faux marblework is more like it). And I was rapt. How darling! How special! How precious!
IÂd always been somewhat introverted (read: self-absorbed), bordering on misanthropic. Mall time was me time. But suddenly, I needed to know all about each one of these tiny treasures and the women who had bore them forth. Much to my still-introverted husbandÂs chagrin, I would march right up to any other mommy, introduce myself, and—after an appropriate warm-up period of oohing and ahhhing, cooing and giggling, kvelling and plotzing—begin to ask them a series of pointed questions. Boy or girl? WhatÂs his name? How old, exactly, is little Jackson? WhatÂs he doing right now? When did he start? Is he sitting up, crawling, talking? What exactly is he saying? And what do you think he means by that?
Ask me what IÂm doing while IÂm doing it, and IÂll no doubt explain that IÂm simply curious—that I want to understand human life in all its beautiful and mysterious forms. And thatÂs true.
But itÂs also true that IÂm measuring Truman against all these other tiny tots, and hoping to find him somehow superior. I mean, theyÂre cute, yes, but isnÂt he cuter? Sure he is. TheyÂre smart, but heÂs smarter! And isnÂt he bigger, healthier, funnier, more advanced? You bet! (With the possible exception of little nine-month-old Sofia, who we met by chance in P.F. Chang; the memory of her robust little giggle and wave pains me still.)
During this process, I am also measuring myself against the other mommies, too. This is much less rewarding. Are they thinner or fatter than I am? Do they look like they are still carrying baby weight, or are they just constitutionally heavy? If theyÂre thinner—which, as the months wear on, they almost always are—are they also younger? Do they seem okay with their bodies? Are they stylish? Hot? Happy?
Unlike Truman, I tend to lose out on these comparisons—IÂm almost always flabbier, older, and much more likely than any other mother in the mall to be walking around in baggy pants and sweatshirts. (IÂm not making any kind of big investment in new clothes until I lose at least 10 pounds!).
Luckily, the pain of this particular comparison is nearly always very short lived, because the next cutie-pie is sure to stroll by in a matter of seconds—the perfect distraction. Say, whatÂs her name—Ashley Lynn? SheÂs 14 months? TrumanÂs only 10 months. WhatÂs that? SheÂs saying Mama and Dada? How darling! Yes, Truman is saying Mama and Dada, too. He also says bottle, bye-bye, kitty, and schadenfreude. I know! ItÂs hilarious! He must have learned that last one from his Dada!
Hillari Dowdle will fit back into her favorite pants one of these
days. Check this column every week, and you will no doubt be among the
first to read all about it!