What I’ve Been Up to..

Updates, Work


Hopefully, given that my last post announced the birth of my baby girl, anyone reading this blog can appreciate the reason I have no been diligent about updating! Maddie turned six months on Christmas Eve and at her doctor’s appointment a week later clocked in at 14lb. 7oz. and 26 inches long. It has been amazing to watch her grow and develop. My tiny little peanut has grown into an awesome, fun baby girl with so much personality. She will giggle up a storm for absolutely no reason. She’s learned how to army crawl to get what she wants (usually my cell phone!) and I’m sure crawling isn’t too far off. She loves standing holding onto things, whether it’s the side of the changing table or my hands. When we go to storytime at the library or music class, she watches with such wonder. I sincerely hope she never loses her amazement with the world and her joy in discovering new things. It is such a pleasure to watch her learn and grow.

Being a mommy has definitely given me a new perspective on the struggles of working mothers. As a freelancer, finding the time to get work done in between all the diaper changes, feedings and naptime battles has been a challenge. In a post on InPower Women, I wrote about how I didn’t have a maternity leave because FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act, doesn’t apply to freelancers.

In my postpartum period, I finished up a project that I started while pregnant. At 7.5 months pregnant, I produced three videos for the website BabyCenter.com touring the maternity ward, operating room and birth center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. It was a really awesome experience and definitely gave me an inside look at what I could expect for my own birth experience. I was really proud of how the videos turned out from an idea when I was suffering from morning sickness and spending way too much time on the BabyCenter website to finally seeing the videos posted online. But finding the time to finish the videos while taking care of Maddie was definitely a challenge!

I also somehow managed to read What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? and post a review on InPower Women to coincide with election day. I was pretty proud of that post, which talked about some of the reasons we haven’t had a woman president yet. Many people have high hopes for Hilary in 2016. Just throwing this out there, but Maddie will be eligible to run for president in 2048…

One of my main goals for 2014 is to get more of my writing published in more places (and get paid for it!). I’ve always been interested in writing about women and politics, but every time Maddie does something new, I think of another possible article to write about babies and parenting.

Here’s hoping for another big year!


She’s Here!


Madelyn ElizabethOr, rather, she was here four weeks ago! Madelyn Elizabeth Westlake was born on June 24th at 4:08am. We called her peanut throughout the pregnancy, because we didn’t know the sex until she was born, and it turns out, it was an appropriate nickname. Maddie was only 6 lbs. 13 oz. at birth and 20 inches long.

I went into labor on Sunday morning, having fairly regular, but not terribly painful contractions. By mid-afternoon, the contractions were definitely starting to hurt and getting more regular. I had hoped for an unmedicated birth and one of the best ways to do that is to labor at home as long as possible. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards for me. Even though I probably wasn’t ready to head to the hospital, I suspected my water had started leaking. Once your water breaks, the risk of infection goes up, so after calling my doctor, we headed down to the Hudson Valley Hospital Center in Cortland Manor to get checked out. Sure enough, it was my water leaking and Paul and I were in it for the long haul.

And it was a long haul. When I got to the hospital, I was only 2-3 cm. dilated at around 7pm. After walking the halls, sitting in a rocking chair and laboring in the jacuzzi tub, I made it to a whopping 4 cm. dilated by 11pm. At that point, my doctor recommended we start pitocin to encourage the contractions along. My white blood cell count had come back high and my medical team was concerned that if we waited for things to happen on their own, the risk of infection would grow exponentially.

With that, my hopes of an unmedicated birth were dashed. Around midnight, I was given pitocin to encourage labor along. Anyone who’s had pitocin, which is artificial oxytocin, can tell you that the contractions from pitocin are significantly more intense than natural contractions. And after almost 16 hours of labor, it was time to call in the anesthesiologist. I had always said that I would get an epidural if I was in extreme pain that was hindering my labor or if I had been laboring for an extended period of time and needed a break. Well, both of those criteria were met and after a bit of a cry over the fact that my body wasn’t cooperating, I got the epidural and was able to get some rest.

Rather than a continuous drip, the epidural I was given was supposed to last for about two and a half hours. Well, at about two and a half hours after getting the epi, I started to feel some sensation again. The nurse came in, checked on my progress and found that I had gone from 4 cm. to 9 cm. in that time. It was almost time to push and my epidural was wearing off just in time for transition. And transition was not fun! I started feeling more and more as the pain increased. Soon enough, it was time to push.

Throughout my entire pregnancy and labor, my husband, Paul, had been an absolute rock, doing everything he could to make me as comfortable as possible. And during the pushing stage, he took awesome to a whole new level. I am so lucky to have such an encouraging and amazing husband.

To me, it seemed like I was pushing forever. But in reality, it only took 28 minutes to meet our daughter. Because she had the cord wrapped around her neck pretty tightly, the doctor had to cut it before she was completely out. But once that was done, she passed the baby to Paul, who handed her to me. The feeling of a newborn baby on your chest for the first time is pretty amazing. And Paul and I were so enthralled with the fact that we finally had a baby, we forgot to check to see what kind of baby it was! It wasn’t until the nurse prodded Paul to check that we found out that we had a little girl!

Maddie and I at the hospitalAfter a few minutes of skin-to-skin contact, the nurse took Maddie over to the warmer to suction out some fluid from her lungs, clean her up and measure and weigh her. Paul was very amused that the nurse did, in fact, count all her fingers and toes (and they were all accounted for). We spent two more nights in the hospital and Maddie passed all her tests with flying colors.

The last few weeks have flown by in a sleep-deprived blur. Breastfeeding is a constant work in progress, but Maddie is growing like a weed and seems bigger every day. After dropping down to 6 lb. 4 oz. when we left the hospital, Maddie regained  all the weight she lost and more, clocking in at 7 lb 4 oz. at her two week appointment. She’s still a peanut though!

It’s been really amazing to see how fast she’s grown and developed in just four weeks. She’s already much more engaged than she was last week. We spent some time in the play mat today and she was actually looking around at all the stuffed animals hanging above her. We’re still a few weeks away from real smiles, but every so often, we’ll get a dream smile or, more often, a dream smirk. I wonder what she’s dreaming about! I can’t wait to find out what she has in store for us in the future.

Wide awake at bedtime!

Gender Socialization from the Womb

Extracurricular, Updates

Ultrasound at 20 weeks, 6 daysI mentioned a few posts ago that I was working on a collaboration with my husband. Well, the secret’s out on most social media, so I might as well post it here. Paul and I are expecting our first child this June! We went in for our anatomy scan and our little peanut is looking perfect and healthy.

Get pregnant and you’ll find yourself getting a lot of the same questions over and over again.

How are you feeling?

Well, the first trimester was rough, but I’m feeling better now. I still have moments of feeling a bit iffy and I still get tired, but overall, it’s gotten much better in the second trimester.

When are you due?

End of June! Yes, I have a specific due date, but very few women end up delivering on their due date, so I’m trying to keep it to myself. Plus, first pregnancies almost always go long, so I’m trying to avoid the “have you popped yet?” questions if I end up going past my date. I’d love to deliver on my due date. I think it’d be a great birthday for this kiddo!

And then there’s my favorite question.

Are you finding out the sex? Is it a boy or a girl? Do you know what you’re having?

Well, yeah, we know what we’re having! A baby! A verified human baby! But no, we won’t be finding out the sex.

Surprisingly, other people have very strong opinions about the decision to wait for the surprise. Mostly, I get the response, “Oh my goodness, I could never not know! I’d go crazy!” Luckily, Paul and I have pretty mellow personalities, so we’ll be happy either way. I’d love to have one of each, so I’ll be thrilled either way.

I’ve also been asked how I’m going to prepare if I don’t know the sex. In that regard, we’re fortunate to be having a summer baby. For the first few months, odds are this little one will be wearing mostly onesies and a diaper. We won’t have to pick up too much clothing before the baby comes and anything more elaborate, we can pick up afterwards.

"Gender Neutral" ClothingBut even with a limited need for clothing, there is a problem with not finding out the sex. Gender neutral clothing. Visit a baby store without knowing the sex of the baby and it’s going to be tough to find a lot of stuff. Sure, there’s yellow… And… Yellow… Maybe green? Oh, and white! But beyond that, the options are limited.

Which is part of the problem. If clothes aren’t pink or blue, they have some other accoutrement that defines them as gender specific. Girl outfits are particularly offensive in this way. If it’s not pink, it has frills or ruffles, sequins or leopard print. And it seems boy outfits have a really unsettling tendency to have slogans like “Ladies’ Man” or silly ties or bowties (yes, because I want my son to be a corporate drone from the start!).

I like ducks as much as the next person, but why is it that ducks seem to be the only “gender neutral” animal out there? Why aren’t there more middle of the road outfits for monkeys or dinosaurs? Girls like dinosaurs as much as boys! I know this for a fact, because dinosaurs are awesome. And I’m a girl.

Since I started my pregnancy, I’ve been participating on the BabyCenter.com message boards. And for the most part, I enjoy the conversations over there. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one dealing with certain symptoms and worrying about certain things. But I am constantly amazed by how many of the moms on the board are planning on starting their children down a very stereotypical gender path right from the start. I think it’s particularly bad with girls, but I’ve seen it with boys as well. Just using words like “princess” to refer to your new baby starts that child down a road that she might not be interested in.

One of the more interesting debates is whether or not to pierce a babies ears. I personally feel that earrings are a responsibility and ears should be pierced when a girl is old enough to ask for them and take care of them herself. But I appear to be in the minority, at least on my message board. Justifications range from the fact that she’s too young to remember the pain at 3 months to the probability that the holes can heal easily when she’s too young to play with them and even that earrings on babies look adorable. I tend to disagree, but my primary reason for not getting my baby’s ears pierced is that I don’t want to force a certain gender path on her. My little girl might be into dolls and tea parties and frilly dresses. Or she might be a total tomboy who wants nothing to do with “girl stuff” and just wants to play in the mud. Or, most likely, she’ll be like me and tread the middle of the road. I played with dolls, but I also played with mud. I wanted to get my ears pierced, but I’ve never been too good at wearing jewelry. Whoever she ends up being (if she’s a she at all!), I want her to come to that conclusion on her own.

I’m excited to welcome our new addition to the world and I’m excited to discover who he or she will be.

And for the record, we’re painting the nursery blue. Not because we think it’s a boy, but rather because the sky is blue and I want clouds, stars and sun decals on the wall.