Mom-scale victories at 4 months old

Week 16 (2)

In Weight Watchers, we often talk about “non-scale victories.”

NSVs are those little moments which serve to remind you why you’re pushing so hard and making tough choices every day. They’re related to weight loss, of course, but not directly; as you might guess by the name, they’re triumphs apart from any number on the scale.

Fitting back into your favorite pair of jeans, for example. Running your first mile. Making healthy choices at the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. Buying a smaller size. Foregoing cake for fresh fruit.

NSVs come in all shapes and sizes, and each is deeply personal. Though my weight loss has taken a back seat while I struggle to regain my sanity with a 4-month-old, I’ve been thinking about these little accomplishments . . . and how they relate to motherhood.

Oliver has his first cold, which started with the sniffles last Friday. My husband called me at work, worried about all the congestion, and we contemplated taking him to the doctor immediately . . . because, you know, the window of opportunity was closing. Everyone knows a kid has to get sick at 5 p.m. on a Friday, right? Just before the weekend — when the shuttered doctor’s offices just taunt you.

He didn’t seem too bad, though — and we didn’t want to be alarmists. No fever. No odd behavior. Taking his bottles normally. Laughing and smiling as usual. Just a little stuffy with an occasional cough.

My darling boy bounced back quickly . . . though I still took the afternoon off Monday to cart him to the doctor’s office. He seemed to be recovering well from whatever bug he’d developed, but better safe than sorry. (#firsttimeparents, I know.)

As we debated whether Oliver was truly sick or just “not feeling well,” we checked in with his day care provider for guidelines. That was my first Mom-Scale Victory: proactively making that phone call and planning ahead to Monday morning. Because he has had no fever or vomiting, we were cleared to bring him in. But she thanked me for calling her first — you know, just to double-check. And I felt like a mom-boss.

Having a sick baby has definitely been our first introduction to the Working Parent Juggle. And it’s going to be an interesting one. We have a few things going for us: Spencer and I both work locally, a real rarity in the D.C. area; we have friends and family nearby for back-up; we have an understanding day care provider who wants to work with us and help find solutions.


Did I want to be home with my sick baby? I did. Especially when I woke up with a sore throat that quickly progressed to my own runny-nose, splitting-head illness that made everything that much more exciting on Monday. I thought getting up with an infant was hard when I was “just” sleep-deprived. Now I’m sleep-deprived, sick as a dog and completely dead on my feet.

But the show must go on.

Week 16 (4)

My mom once told me that some days are just “fighting the war.” She has had a hellish work commute for more than three decades, and she still excelled at raising two daughters with my dad (who worked from home, but also made terrible drives for work).

They say you can only truly appreciate your parents when you become an adult — and a parent yourself. While I’d like to hope I acknowledged their sacrifices before now, can I just say: wow. Yes.

Fighting the war, indeed.

Getting Ollie to his doctor’s appointment on Monday was another Mom-Scale Victory. I’ve never taken him out in public alone, and I had to ready his stroller and get everything hooked in by myself. While I’ve taken him out in his car seat plenty, I have yet to run errands without Spencer. This isn’t intentional; I just haven’t needed to.

But on Monday? It was time. After creating an elaborate plan that included Spence calling the doctor’s office as soon as they opened at 8 a.m. and me consulting my boss for a half-day when I ran in the door, we secured an afternoon sick appointment. I would meet my deadlines by noon and head back to the sitter. I would take Oliver by myself.

I was nervous about it, but I didn’t let myself entertain that anxiety. After getting through his prematurity, his NICU stay, those early and tough weeks at home . . . well, I figure it can’t compare to that insanity. This was just wheeling a sleepy baby up to a third-floor doctor’s office alone, you know?

Preemie parents feel a special rush of pleasure when others can’t single out our little ones as being early. Oliver was born four months ago today weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces, and at his appointment on Monday? Our chunky man weighed 15 pounds on the dot.

“He’s a 32-weeker?” the doctor crowed, eyebrows shooting up. I quickly guessed that her terminology marked her as a preemie parent, too, and I was right: her own son was born at 33 weeks. “You’re kidding me.”

“I’m not,” I glowed. “He’s a 32-weeker.”

Here’s a Mom-Scale Victory: I didn’t immediately launch into Ollie’s whole story. For months, I took any and every opportunity to talk about our son’s dramatic entrance into the world. “Preeclampsia” was always on my lips, and I found myself wanting to talk about the trauma as a way to . . . relieve it? Comfort myself? Find support?

I don’t know. But as spring gave way to summer and summer heads toward fall, my favorite season, I do find myself healing.

I have set-backs. I have bad days. I still cry. But all in all? I am getting better.

I mean, aside from the cold.

That’s going to linger just to torment me.

Week 16 (6)

At 4 months old (2 months adjusted), Oliver . . .

• Is beginning to grasp and tug on objects, especially his favorite blanket;
• Looks for and recognizes us in a crowd;
• Can hold his head up mostly unassisted;
• No longer despises tummy time;
• Still loves his ceiling fans;
• Smiles frequently and with reckless abandon;
• “Dances” (limbs flailing) to “Everything is Awesome”;
• “Talks” constantly, cooing and oohing while making eye contact. (“I hear you, baby,” I say, and he seems to nod in agreement.)

He is . . . a baby. No longer a newborn, but an infant. A child. One with adorably round cheeks and the cutest little giggle; a baby who loves to grasp our fingers and gleefully watches us move about the room, the center of our little universe.

Though I sometimes feel like a heaping mess of a person – a bedraggled wife; a weary mother — I often remind myself of just how far we’ve come. For two glorious nights in a row before he got sick, Oliver slept for six (!) hours. At night. In a row.

And he seems to know us. Really know us. Not just as the tall people things with the milk, I think (though there’s that, too) — but as Mama and Daddy.

Four months after his birth, my Mom-Scale Victories include never being late to work in the two months I’ve been back at it; finding a way to make the overnight shifts work with Spence; managing to almost finish a book over the course of the last month; and getting more comfortable taking Oliver out with us on day trips. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it — and important. Our duo has had to learn to be a trio, but we’re doing it.

In the month to come, we’ll take baby’s first plane ride and head north to introduce Ollie to his New York family. I’m insanely nervous about the flight, only because I’m worried he’ll have a total meltdown — and I’ve been known to get ugly when people stare at me. Or us. But I guess that just comes with the territory, and I’ll have to learn to ignore it. We are, after all, just doing the best we can.

And my last Mom-Scale Victory for today? I got this post written on four hours of broken sleep with a head so fuzzy and clogged by illness and medication, it’s really a wonder that I’m upright.

Just makin’ it work.

Weddings and endings and beginnings

In high school, I was a serious theatre nerd. Trying out for my first play freshman year was a huge leap for young, socially-awkward me — and not just because it required me to memorize lines and not fall face-first on the school stage. Coming from the disjointed throes of middle school, I was looking for a way to become a new person — a more confident person — and theatre seemed like a natural way to try that.

Over the course of four years, I was in more than a dozen shows and met countless people. Theatre changed my life in profound ways — especially because I was so active in the department during those crucial teen years. The fun of playing a character on stage held major draw for me, sure, but that wasn’t even what I loved most about theatre.

It was the friendships.

Over the course of a few months, we would audition and be cast and then spend hours daily running lines, rehearsing scenes and getting to know one another. After school each day, our cast and crew would assemble and start to plan these huge shows that would take over our young lives. And when opening day would finally arrive, finding us all antsy and excited and scared, there was always a time before the curtain drew open that I would force myself to pause and savor the moment.

In that world, murmurs from the audience reached the actors and technicians buzzing around backstage as the stage manager would wrangle us with whispered instructions. As show time approached, my stomach would lurch as lines and directions ran through my nervous mind. But when the spotlight clicked on and my heels hit the stage, all that anxiety would ebb away.

Backstage is where I first met Erin, my steadfast friend and new bride. As a freshman, I envied sophomore Erin’s confidence, humor and poise. Both active in drama, it didn’t take long for us to share costume tips, laugh as ’50s teenyboppers in “Bye Bye Birdie” (pictured above) and form bonds that would carry us into adulthood.

With a wide circle of mutual friends, Erin never made me feel like I was another passing acquaintance. Our conversations have inspired me in difficult times, and my trust in her is absolute. A year ahead of me in school, Erin was the first of my friends to arrive at the college I would follow her to the next fall. We briefly lost touch at university, but nothing could have delighted me more than getting a Facebook note from her during my junior year: “I think we have a class together this spring!”

We were both English majors and poets, and it was a literature class on the works of William Shakespeare that brought us together again. I remember the afternoon she showed me a text message from a handsome guy she’d just met. Her eyes glittered like diamonds, and neither of us paid much attention to our droning professor. She was thinking about when she would see him next.

About twelve years after Erin and I shared a stage in high school and more than five years since that class, Erin and Matt were married at Ft. Belvoir on Sept. 10. As one of her bridesmaids, we spent Saturday getting ready and laughing about old times. Secluded before the ceremony, I listened to the murmur of guests arriving and felt my stomach flip. All these years later and we were in a show together again. I ran through my lines and directions, but my task now was simple: try not to cry as my dear friend married her love.

Just as we had more than a decade ago, I marched ahead of Erin into the spotlight — and held my breath as she appeared on her father’s arm. My chest ached as I took in the moment: this ending and this beginning; the pooling of tears in the groom’s eyes; this exquisitely beautiful bride, and the true gift that has been our years of friendship. When I think about all that Erin has meant to me, I feel overwhelmed. I wiped tears away the entire ceremony.

Vows were exchanged and promises made, and this performance went on as scheduled. Love lit up Erin and Matt’s faces all evening, and we enjoyed delicious food and even better times. Dancing and snapping shots in a photo booth were definite highlights, and it felt so good to have Spencer on my arm.

When I looked over at the newlyweds’ expressions and felt my own face mirroring that high, I was emotional all over again. I’ve had my heart broken. Erin has been there for me through everything — through that, and so much more — and I felt so elated to just be . . . happy. And in love. In love at her wedding, a moment we’ve anticipated for so long. And when Spencer pulled me in for a dance, I forgot about whether or not everyone was watching us. It didn’t matter. Nothing did.

I think about Erin and all the good things I wish for her. I think about Matt and how I hope and pray he will love and care for her always, as I hope she will for him. I think about all the exciting things that are ahead of them — and for me, and for all of us — and am filled with this sense of elation and wonderment and pride.

Weddings are beginnings — but they’re endings, too. But for once in my life, I didn’t focus on the sadness that can often tint my enjoyment of the good things in life. I thought about how honored I was to be a part of her day, and how thankful I am for the people in my world.

And like so many of our plays in high school — and all the good books I’ve read — I know this is just the beginning of their fairytale ending.

A giveway for a milestone week

It’s been a big week here at write meg! In addition to getting a makeover (complete with new layout, header and color scheme — but not sense of humor), my post on food drives was featured on‘s Freshly Pressed on Dec. 2-3. Welcome to everyone who clicked through that way, and to new subscribers! (And old ones. “Make new friends, but keep the old . . .”)

And, you know, I also happened to read 200,000 visits on Dec. 2. No big deal.

I promised I’d be doing something special in honor of that milestone, and I’m a woman of my word. We’re wrapping up the reading year and, to date, I’ve read 80 books. I’ll be doing a huge wrap-up post in coming weeks but already have my top choice for favorite read of the year. There was some fierce competition, yes, but one book stands out above all others for me: Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s Life After Yes.

This novel — Rowley’s debut — hit me like no other novel in 2010. It’s one of those books that found me at just the right time in my life, and it was like an arrow to the heart.

I won’t say much more about it now — a post is in the works. But you can read a summary and my full review from June right here.

And in honor of write meg!’s milestone week, I’d love to give a new copy to you! It’s a book with universal appeal that had me laughing, crying and seriously thinking about life. It’s not to be missed. And I don’t want you to miss it.

One copy of Life After Yes is up for grabs internationally to anywhere The Book Depository ships! See the list of countries and make sure yours is on it, then head over to this form to enter.

Comments on this post are welcomed and appreciated, but will not count as entries. One additional entry each may be earned by sharing a link to the contest via Twitter, Facebook, a blog post, etc.

The giveaway will run until 12 p.m. EST on Friday, Dec. 10, and the winner will be selected via and emailed by yours truly. I’ll share the results here and on Twitter, too.

Thank you to everyone who has visited, commented, emailed and/or passed along my link — this week and every week prior. I’m honored and proud of the space I’ve carved out for myself here, and can’t wait to share 2011 with all of you.

Update on Dec. 11: Congratulations to Jessica, my randomly-selected winner! Jess, I’ve emailed you.