Posts tagged with ‘pregnant’

Maternity leggings question:

I got this email a few days ago:

As the Unofficial Queen of Leggings, you’re the first person I thought of to recommend a good, high-quality pair of black maternity leggings. In my non-pregnant state I’m a huge fan of Zella Live-In leggings and I’d love to find a similar nice, opaque black pair that work well for both workouts and slug life and casual outfits. Ideally, I’d like to stay around $50 or less, but I’d consider paying more for a really good pair.

I’m almost 20 weeks and my non-maternity options are starting to cut my mid-section half and I now have a really unattractive double-stomach thing going on!

My favorite maternity leggings were from Target and from Forever 21. Forever 21, unfortunately, no longer makes their maternity stuff. It’s a shame, because they were great, cheap basics. I wore the hell out of their leggings. (And continued to wear them post-birth because WHY NOT.) Target still has them though! Here is a Liz Lange pair similar to the ones I had ($17). I really hated full-panel leggings and pants which is why I took to demi-panel ones instead. I think these Target ribbed leggings ($25) are adorable too. The gray color is fun for lounging around at home! If you haven’t tried a full-panel legging, this pair for $30 might be a good one to start with. They’re ponte pants, so they’re probably more opaque and thick than regular leggings. 

I have some friends who SWORE by Old Navy’s full-panel jersey leggings. They’re a complete steal at $12 each. 601 reviews can’t be wrong! Their jersey legging 2-pack for $20 is a great deal too. 

Another brand of maternity leggings I have heard fantastic things about: LOFT. Their leggings in stretch ponte ($65) and regular ponte leggings ($55) are eligible for 40% off today with code GET40

Something I saw today that is REALLY cool: GapFit now makes maternity gFast leggings! They’re just $40 (get 40% off with code GAPSAVE). I’m really into GapFit stuff right now and some friends keep telling me to try these leggings because they love them so much. Because they’re made of technical fabric, they are probably more opaque and durable than a standard cotton pair. 

Some other inexpensive pairs: ASOS has a support legging for $40, Topshop maternity leggings are just $20 and Topshop’s ponte maternity pants are $40. Boden’s maternity leggings are $34 and have 129 4.5 star reviews. 

If you don’t mind spending a little more, Isabella Oliver makes really good maternity stuff. Her leggings are $72. Plush gets fantastic reviews for their leggings and they make a fleece-lined maternity pair for $82. 

One last option: Aerie doesn’t have maternity stuff, but they do make a yoga legging with a foldover waistband. Just unroll that waistband and you’re good to go. They’re only $20 and I LIVE for Aerie’s comfy stuff. 

wanderingtexans asked: Hi Jaclyn! I have to attend a military formal at the end of January and a wedding in mid-February and I'm hoping to find a dress I can wear to both. This is hard enough without the fact that I'll be 4.5-5 months pregnant at the two events and I'm having ZERO luck finding a maternity evening dress that isn't awful. I'd be ok to wear a short dress, so long as it's still suitable for a special occasion. Thank you in advance for your help!!

I found the perfect dress but it’s on sale and you might have to move fast! This J.Crew long dress in liquid jersey is already marked down to $170 (from $325), but you can take an additional 40% off with code FUNSALE. The empire waist will be perfect and the shape is good for either a wedding or a formal. I’d go with black or navy so it looks less bridesmaid-y, but a lot of that comes down to the hair/accessories. If I were you, I’d keep it simple—wavy hair down, maybe a few bracelets or one statement necklace.

If you want a shorter option, this empire-waisted Eliza J dress from Nordstrom is $148, available in blue or black (I like black) and has a great, dramatic neckline. 

If you’d rather rent a dress, I put some ideas that might work for you in this post. This ($85) is a pretty dress and I’m a huge fan of this color ($70). Pink and red together looks fun, youthful ($200) or go all-red in this dramatic dress ($70). 

Last but not least: Topshop has some affordable and simple/minimal dresses available in maternity sizes. You could go with a basic black or red dress and add some killer accessories to dress it up. 

Have fun! 

Pregnant ladies: Topshop’s ponte trouser leggings are just $40. Buy them! 

Pregnant ladies: Topshop’s ponte trouser leggings are just $40. Buy them! 

nomadsoul asked: Hi Jaclyn, I have a month to go in my pregnancy and was hoping to avoid investing in a maternity coat, but it's starting to get really cold. Do you have suggestions for a trapeze/cape type coat that would work now (9 months pregnant) but also be something I could wear after? Thanks!!

I tried to find some maternity options first. I like this H&M puffer jacket ($60) and it doesn’t look like a maternity coat. (See this ASOS puffer jacket for $98 as well.) H&M also has two parka options: black ($70) and green ($40). The black one looks warmer. I think you could wear both of them after too. 

This Topshop swing/trapeze parka is pricier ($130) but it’s definitely a style you could wear post-pregnancy. This ASOS parka is $80 and worth checking out too. 

Here is a non-maternity option from ASOS to look at: this oversized cocoon coat is $160 but would definitely accommodate a pregnant stomach. 

ZARA has a few styles that might work too. This flared peacoat ($139) is pretty. This anorak ($139) looks oversized. This woolen wrap jacket ($159) would be a good choice because you could tie it higher on your stomach. 

Other randoms: This Lululemon wrap is criminally over-priced ($128) but it’s PERFECT for you. Also take a look at this Dorothy Perkins cape jacket ($110) and this Calvin Klein herringbone cape ($137). 

Really, I’m just impressed you only have a month left and you’re looking for a coat! I kept our thermostat at 58 degrees or something ridiculous through November and December. I wore a winter coat once. (And then took it off.) Brandon looks back on that time with great horror. He wore a cable knit beanie to bed one night. 

Anyway, got off track there. Congratulations and enjoy your last month! xo 

sinplusone asked: Hi Jaclyn, I always find your advice very helpful and was wondering if you could help me out. I'll be heavily pregnant around the holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, my baby shower and New Years. Any suggestions where I can get dressy maternity clothes that won't cost me a fortune?

Ugh, winter is a really hard time of the year to do dressy maternity. It’s a hard time of year to do maternity PERIOD. Yes, summer pregnants have to deal with the nasty heat and humidity, but they also get to wear comfy things like maxi dresses. You can wear these in the winter, but styling them to be cold weather-appropriate is annoying.

Okay so—to your question! I think Target, LOFT and ASOS are your best bets. You may have some luck with H&M maternity stuff, but it’s more casual. Watch for LOFT sales—there are tons of them, never pay full price. Target maternity stuff is surprisingly pretty—the dresses are especially good. 

Another thing to consider is wearing dressy separates to some of these occasions. I know it’s tempting to wear a dress, but if you don’t feel like fussing with tights and finding flattering shoes or worrying if you’ll be cold, I think really sleek separates—like this blouse and a pair of great pants—would look amazing! 

If you have your heart set on a dress, I like this one from LOFT (sleeves are a plus). ASOS has some pretty dresses right now too: 1, 2, 3, 4. Target still has mostly summer maternity styles in stock (you’ll want to check back in a month or two for winter stuff), but this maxi dress has 3/4 length sleeves and is on sale for $12 (!). Can’t beat that!  

Weighting

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Oof. This is a scary post to write. I mean, I posted pictures of my stretch marks before and my deflated body about a week postpartum but talking numbers is a little more daunting. Julie inspired me, what can I say?

(This post—she’s a long one, so more after the break.)

Anyway, some back story. I’ve been 6 feet tall since I was about 13 and I have no idea what I weighed then. I don’t remember. By the end of high school, I was in the upper 130’s. And I was skinny. It’s so funny looking back at high school photos now because at the time I know I was fussing about this body part or that body part, but then I see pictures and want to punch my 17-year-old self in the face. I gained some muscle during my last year of high school and the summer after from doing lots of cycling and when I went to college, I weighed about 140-150 and stayed within 145-160 for the next four years.

The mid-20’s are a rude awakening. It’s like your body giving you a little taste of how things are gonna go for the next 20 years or so. A gradually slowing metabolism. A general thickening that doesn’t go away unless it’s worked off or dieted off. No longer could I eat crap and write it off the same way I used to be able to and that was a sad realization. Having a significant other who eats like a racehorse and thinks three Zebra Cakes is a pretty fun breakfast didn’t help either. From the time I graduated to when I got pregnant, it was a slow, steady gain.

My highest weight (other than while pregnant) was actually about six months or so before I found out I was pregnant. I had stopped working out regularly and was generally enjoying the slug life. I think I was in denial, thinking that at some point the 21-year-old metabolism might kick back in. About three months before I discovered I was pregnant, I took a pretty drastic measure and started dieting. (The Dukan Diet.) If you’re wondering if it works, it does. I think I lost 7 pounds in two weeks or something like that. I don’t think I’d ever do it again, but it did show me just how little protein I was getting prior to the diet. Brandon and I were both raised vegetarian and rarely cooked meat at home and it was/is easy for us to fall into a carb-heavy routine. My highest weight before starting the diet was 175—the highest weight I’d been to date. (Here’s a photo.) When I found out I was pregnant, after dieting for just over two months, my weight was 160. I’d also been working out during that time more than I had in a couple years. As in, I was actually working out. Here’s a photo for reference—I was pregnant here but didn’t know it yet. You get the idea.

So, here’s where things get crazy. My weight gain was pretty normal throughout my pregnancy. Then, in the last 10 or so weeks, it started getting out of control. I was retaining a lot of water and was really swollen and bloated. Thank god it wasn’t July. December was bad enough. My weight gain got so rapid that my midwife would double check my blood pressure (it was always excellent) and they had me redo the glucose test a couple times (was always normal) because she didn’t believe that I couldn’t have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. By 30 weeks pregnant I was too uncomfortable to continue with the low-impact cardio I’d been doing, so my exercise routine did drop off. I was still doing yoga and I walked about 2-3 miles a day. Didn’t matter! I looked like a sausage.

I’ve said before that I gained about 50 pounds while pregnant. You do the math. Guess how much I weighed 40 hours before Isobel was born?

212 pounds.

The first time I saw a “2” in front of my weight at the midwife clinic, I didn’t want to tell her what it was. They had us weigh ourselves privately and then tell them the number. Sure, that’s fine—less embarrassing in a way. But then I still had to tell her the number! Imagine me standing on that scale. It was an old-school scale, the one with the sliders. I tinkered with those sliders for a good five minutes. Brandon was out in the waiting room and after our appointment, he asked me what I had been doing with the scale because all he heard was “Clink! CLINK! Clink clink” coming from the bathroom as I frantically tried to salvage my wracked body image. I was like, okay, don’t panic. You’re wearing heavy shoes. I took off my shoes. Wait, I haven’t peed yet! I am storing AT LEAST 30 POUNDS OF URINE, YES?

It was a bad day. My very first thought after we left that appointment (and after I’d told Brandon to shut up when he asked me about the scale) was that I would never, ever fit into anything in my closet ever again. No way. I was done for. I berated myself. How could I have let it reach this level? My weight gain had been normal and honestly, I hadn’t cared seeing the numbers tick up. I had loved being able to wear tight clothes and bikinis through the summer and fall without caring if I was sucking my stomach in or what my thighs looked like. The weight gain hadn’t mattered until that moment on the scale. Granted, I did give birth to a week-early baby who was nearly 10 pounds. But that’s 10 pounds out of 52.

After Isobel was born, the “weight” came off fast. I say “weight” QUOTEUNQUOTE because a lot of it was water weight and that wasn’t the problem. The problem was deflating too fast. It looked like my body was the equivalent of someone sighing as they sink into a really comfortable chair. Everything was saggy and mushy. I’ve compared it before to looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy from my neck to my knees. (Read here for more on this.)

By my six week postpartum appointment, I was thoroughly terrified to step on the Scale of Doom, but I did and my weight was 171. 41 pounds gone! The midwife congratulated me. Brandon said, “Good job! Isn’t that the weight you were before the diet?”

The six week appointment was a reckoning. I knew that whatever weight remained at that point would have to be scraped off my body through sweaty realness and I was wholly unprepared for that kind of fitness commitment. Plus, I was breastfeeding and so I put aside working out for a while since I knew my supply suffered if I dared to take even a brisk walk. (P.S. Breastfeeding helping you lose baby weight is not exactly a real thing. Or at least, not real in the way you think it is from reading US Magazine and stupid celebrity interviews. It may help some in the first month or two, but then it makes your body hoard all the fat pockets as little milk reserves in case you decide to start starving yourself. ETA: I also had this tendency to eat like a freight train while breastfeeding and may or may not have justified certain treats because THE BABY WANTED IT OKAY, so I may not be the best one to speak about breastfeeding/weight loss going hand in hand or not.)

Once Isobel had weaned, I started working out, but then life got in the way and I thought I looked so good in comparison to OverstuffedPregnantFest 2011 that I got pretty complacent. That’s the real trick of postpartum weight loss. It’s easy to start thinking that you’ve gotten back to square one when the current number on the scale looks pretty damn impressive compared to the number you saw in your 40th week of pregnancy. (Or the 2nd week postpartum or the 6th week postpartum.) But I was really just kidding myself. I had lost a lot of muscle tone, especially through my midsection and on my arms, and my skin elasticity was shot to hell. I had work—HARD WORK—to do and I didn’t want to face it.

Everything came to a head for me one night when my mom cleaned out some storage and gave me my wedding dress. Brandon said, “You should try it on!” I was all hell no, but it taunted me from the corner. I was so stupid. I should not have done it. But I did. Of course it wouldn’t zip. I stared in the mirror and hated everything about my reflection. I mean, a visceral hate. I took the dress off and quietly walked downstairs to the kitchen. Brandon was taking a shower. I cried sitting in the corner of the kitchen for almost an hour. Brandon never knew. It seems so petty—to cry over your body, of all things. But that moment—seeing the proof that I was not the same as I had been on one of the happiest days of my life—really knocked me down. I had lost the baby weight, congratulations to me blah blah blah, but the reality was that my body was not the same body and I had to get it to a place that worked for me in the present. I had to stop thinking about how I looked pre-pregnancy or how I looked in college or in my early 20’s or in high school or on my wedding day.

So, I started working hard. And I’ve been working really hard the past 8 months. I’ve been spinning at least 3 times a week (usually 4) and have been doing yoga about 3 times a week too. This is not easy for me. I haven’t worked out this much since I was in college. But, if I don’t do it, I get a little crazy. I need exercise to keep me sane, frankly. My stress and anxiety can get out of control without regular exercise, even if it’s just a 20 minute walk. I’m not a healthy living/fitness blogger and I don’t like fitness challenges and I hate running with a burning passion and I eat Doritos on the regular, but I do have to sweat at some point each week so I don’t turn into a psycho. Oh, and I’m not going to lie and say that I’m doing this exercise solely for my mental health. No. Vanity plays a part, sure. I started being very regimented about my fitness primarily to fit into things that I hadn’t worn in 8+ years.

Last night Brandon bought a scale because our other one broke and we had never replaced it. I am really nervous about scales. I don’t like them and they don’t like me. Brandon weighed himself. We weighed Isobel. “Mommy’s turn!” Brandon said. “Let me just take it over in the corner so you can’t see,” I said and tried to make a run for it. “We all had to do it!” He replied, smiling because he knows how much I hate scales. He knows. But whatever. FINE. YOU WIN. I stepped on.

152!

I still have some work to do. Even though I haven’t weighed 152 since I was 20, my body now isn’t the body I had then. I need more flexibility and I need to do more toning. But I know one thing I won’t do.

I won’t go near that fucking wedding dress.

My very favorite maternity leggings were from Forever 21’s now-defunct maternity line (RIP), but these from ASOS are only $20 and look pretty darn comfy. 

My very favorite maternity leggings were from Forever 21’s now-defunct maternity line (RIP), but these from ASOS are only $20 and look pretty darn comfy. 

Baby Shower Gifts and Registry Tips

Today was the release of Cool Mom Picks’ 2013 Ultimate Baby Shower Gift Guide. If you don’t read Cool Mom Picks, you should! They review lots of new baby/toddler/kid gear and their gift guides are pretty thorough (and just pretty to look at). Here are a few items from their new gift guide that I’ve used:

Isobel has this stacking tower and likes playing with it and it’s really cute, but I caution against putting too many toys on a registry or buying them as shower gifts. They’re not practical for a long time and there are so many other gift options that are better for a newborn and/or new parent. 

Isobel’s iPhone teether was something I bought mostly because I thought it was cute. It turned out to be a really practical purchase too. She loved it and gnawed on it all the time. Total lifesaver during the worst of her teething. 

Cool Mom Picks put the Ergo Winter Edition ($195) on their list. I actually think that the fur lining would be too warm for summer months (I don’t think the inner fur part is removable, though the muff is). Save your money and get the standard Ergo ($130, with the unbelievably annoying little infant insert). We tried several different baby carriers/slings and the Ergo was my favorite. I still use it every now and then with Isobel. Brandon liked the Baby Bjorn ($80) better. The Ergo did have a huge learning curve and it was nerve-wracking to try and handle Isobel as a newborn and get the carrier all situated at the same time. I should have practiced a little bit more.

The aden + anais Easy Swaddles ($24.95) didn’t exist when Isobel was born and I wish they had been because she broke out of every swaddle we tried with their regular swaddle blankets. Instead, we used Summer Infant Swaddle Me blankets ($12.50), which fit her well even as a newborn. Later we used the Miracle Blanket too. 

I had a couple Gap nursing tees and tanks and they were wonderful. This one they featured is $29.95 and get an additional 30% off today with code GAPHAPPY. Target also had some good nursing basics (online—don’t bother looking in stores). One note: I’d caution against getting this as a shower gift unless you know the mom-to-be pretty well and she’s told you she’s going to try breastfeeding or pumping and/or she’s registered for other breastfeeding or pumping supplies. 

DO YOU KNOW ME BUT AT ALL

Skip Hop bath mat ($15)! Important…and cute. Increase the cuteness by getting the matching cushion so your knees don’t ache too much kneeling outside the bath tub. 

There are some other really great ideas on their baby shower list, but a lot of it is pretty and expensive and not necessarily super practical (I’m a big fan of practical registries). There are also quite a few things on their list that are better suited to older children (not newborns and new moms/dads). Making a baby registry is not easy and it’s usually not fun, so you’ll want to do research before adding a $300 diaper bag and a $90 “luxury” baby sleep sack. Just keep in mind who will be buying from your registry. Will they be willing to spend more on big ticket/expensive items or will they want more budget-friendly picks? 

A few other suggestions:

  • The Baby Bargains book is actually not super helpful at finding actual bargains, but the GREAT thing about it is that it reviews nearly every brand and model in different baby gear categories: Mattresses, car seats, strollers, etc.
  • Blogger reviews of baby gear is fun to read, but go to a store and try the different gear yourself too. You may hate the stroller everyone else uses and you may want to burn the Ergo in the backyard. 
  • This Ultimate Baby Registry on HelloBee.com is one of the thorough and reasonable that I’ve seen and I had great luck with so many of the products mentioned. Here is another good one from The Wise Baby. 

What baby registry must-haves would you tell someone to include?

babymamabond asked: Can you help me find cute maxi dresses or even regular dresses in the maternity section (for a reasonable price)? I have looked everywhere I feel like, and I can't find ANYTHING. I want something for my mid March baby shower & I live in GA so the weather will be pretty warm by then. THANK YOU in advance :)

I’m not surprised you’ve been having trouble because there is barely ANYTHING decent available. Just look at this Old Navy monstrosity I stumbled upon. A maternity dress with a drop waist? That is really just the worst. 

Here are a few options I found for you and I included a few accessory ideas too.

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This Topshop dress ($80) is a little pricey, but the draped front would be really flattering. You could jazz it up a little more with exciting shoes or jewelry, but I kept it simple with black pumps.

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This may be more formal than you want, but if you keep the shoes casual and the accessories minimal, this ASOS dress is a good option. It’s only $32.21 (from $76) and would look good with a simple ponytail, pretty earrings and a bracelet. Flats would be comfortable too. 

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This is the most springy and trendy of the bunch. This ASOS dress is also the most expensive at $93. (It’s also available in navy if you don’t want to go quite so bright.) Add a bracelet stack (1, 2, 3) and some contrasting short wedges

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Why don’t more people wear tops with pants to their baby showers? Why didn’t I think of doing that? (I could not find a mat dress I liked and eventually found a non-maternity wrap dress that miraculously fit.) Anyway, I love this outfit. I think it’s my favorite. I love the bold, graphic top ($30) and I can personally vouch for the comfort and fit of H&M’s maternity pants ($24.95). You can do a more grown-up look by adding a pair of pointed toe pumps or do something more fun with a pair of yellow sandals

I hope this helps or at least gives you an idea of where to start looking! Good luck, have fun and congratulations! 

For several months, we had worked out a childcare arrangement for Isobel with a family friend who she knew well. It was great and she loved having another child her age to play with during the day, but unfortunately a few things (scheduling, distance, etc.) threw a wrench into the plans and so we began looking for a childcare facility closer to our home for her to attend 3 days a week or so. Brandon is home on Mondays so we didn’t want full-time care because our schedules are often varying and flexible.
Childcare in our area is exorbitantly expensive. Well—everything in our area is expensive. Housing is expensive. Transportation is expensive. We had done some childcare research before Isobel was born, but it was only cursory because at that time we were planning for other arrangements to work out—and they didn’t. We began looking in earnest a few months ago. There were a few problems right off the bat. First, many childcare facilities in our area have long waiting lists, even for older infants and toddlers. (It’s common for daycares to have waiting lists for newborns but at some of the fancier facilities in our area, there were year-long waiting lists for toddlers.) Second, and I want to be completely honest here—we could not afford several of the daycares that did have availability. We were willing to look into a full-time option where there was no part-time available, but soon discovered that the average full-time care cost at some of the nicer facilities that did have availability was north of $1,800 per month. The full-time cost at a daycare right around the corner from our home was over $2,200 a month. We live a comfortable life and our income is above the average for this area. But we cannot afford to pay $2,000 a month for daycare. 
We kept looking and eventually circled back to a daycare I’d toured months earlier and loved. They offered part-time care (a huge bonus, since it’s difficult to find) and had a lovely facility, great caregivers in each “classroom” and provided two snacks a day. It’s still expensive, but not prohibitively so. They didn’t have a consistent slot available for Isobel but worked with us to get a couple definite days a week and we’d be able to take another kid’s spot if he/she didn’t show up that day. Eventually we’ll move her into a spot permanently and this was a way to get our foot in the door, so to speak. Her first day was a little dicey, but she did well, ate all her food and played a little bit, although they said she was initially wary of all the new commotion. That seemed to be how things would progress—maybe a few off days here and there while she adjusted, but we expected that. 
Yesterday in the late afternoon, I was working and trying to finish up a few more items on my to-do list. I saw my phone buzz and it was Isobel’s daycare. Never a good sign, so I was already anxious when I answered. It was the head caregiver from her room and she told me that Isobel had been crying nearly all day. She had eaten, a good sign, but needed near constant comforting and wanted to be held and it was becoming difficult for the caregivers in the room to give enough attention to the other children. She advised me to come as soon as I could so we could discuss our options. She asked, “Why doesn’t Isobel come more often during the week?” I replied that it was because there wasn’t a permanent slot that she could fill and we were waiting until one opened up. She said that Isobel would probably need a more permanent schedule so she could get used to being there and not have stranger anxiety all over again each time she was dropped off. I agreed, but reminded her that that’s what I wanted—it just wasn’t available. They assured me that they would try to work out what they could and see if they can nail down three or four specific days a week that she could attend. 
When I got off the phone, I was at a total loss. Should I be sad? Angry? I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. I would say I was discouraged, but that’s a little too timid a word for how overwhelmed I felt. I called Brandon and told him what was going on. I said, “What can I do? I feel like I can’t win. I can’t take care of her at home and work too, and I don’t know how to help her daycare to make this better.” 
In this weird world of modern parenting, there is this horrible dichotomy that says that you can make the best decisions for your children if you “know all the information,” but that also continually promotes guilt and judgment if the decision you choose is not the one that is trendy, not the one that is socially normative or not the one that upper-middle class or well-off families make. Jessica Valenti’s book “Why Have Kids?” illustrated this really well. As a collective society, we wring our hands over breastfeeding or helping kids sleep through the night or practicing attachment parenting or giving them perfectly assembled nurseries or going back to work after an extended, paid maternity leave or discussing the stresses or benefits of being at a stay at home parent. Let me be clear: you have a certain amount of privilege if these are the issues on your parenting plate. For the women who have difficulty breastfeeding and have no maternity leave, or perhaps their workplace doesn’t allow them the time and space to pump, they don’t have a choice. For the parents who don’t have a separate bedroom for their new baby because they’re living in a one-room or studio apartment, sleep training is obviously problematic. And, if you don’t have a separate bedroom for a baby, there is no nursery to decorate—assuming you have the money and time to do it anyway. Attachment parenting? For a mother who has to return to work right away, that “parenting style” is not even on the table. As far as paid maternity leave—it barely exists in this country. Let me say that again because it’s something we like to pretend isn’t a reality: PAID MATERNITY LEAVE BARELY EXISTS IN THIS COUNTRY. Oh, women have the option of twelve weeks unpaid leave at most workplaces. That’s roughly equivalent to six paychecks. How many families can afford to miss six paychecks? 40% of Americans have less than $500 in savings. Could your family afford to miss six paychecks? If you can hobble together enough sick leave, vacation days, personal days and short-term disability benefits, you may be able to eke out six weeks. What happens after those six weeks or two weeks or twelve weeks you’ve been gone from work? Two options: someone stays home and watches your child (maybe you, maybe a family member) or you find childcare. The average cost of daycare in the US is over $11,000 a year. The average wage in the US is about $43,000 per year. After childcare, that average worker is now making $32,000 per year. The average wage in Maryland is about $52,000 per year. If a Maryland resident is paying about $1,700 a month in childcare (or $20,400 per year), they’ve just negated their income entirely. They’ve nearly halved it. 
There is a frosted glass placed between the realities of modern parenting and modern motherhood (because there are some issues that intrinsically relate to the role of a modern mother) and the competent and stylish veneer that is too often sold as “real life.” Of course—and I have to say it—this is perpetuated by the parenting-on-display qualities of blogging. You see US Weekly and Life&Style headlines at the grocery checkout proclaiming amazing “post baby bods,” but it gets a lot harder to ignore and hits much closer to home when you see “real life” moms looking amazing post-birth on their blog. Magazines show gorgeous nurseries and talk about exciting new toys or activities for children, but when bloggers showcase the same things, it gets harder to justify that it’s not something you’re supposed to be creating or doing too. 
Through no fault of our own, there was a lapse where I was uninsured and did not have health insurance shortly before I found out I was pregnant. It was set to kick back in about a month after we found out. At one point, we received a bill for some standard lab testing and for whatever reason, our insurance hadn’t received the claim yet. The bill was for $11,000. The external cephalic version I had near the end my pregnancy would have cost us over $4,000 out of pocket if I hadn’t had health insurance. (Even still, we had to pay close to $1,000.)
I’ve never realized how vulnerable and inadequate I could feel until I found out I was pregnant. There are a million possibilities for both emotional and financial bankruptcy. Every decision seems like the biggest one you’ll ever make. But I understand that because I have to make decisions in some cases—that they aren’t just made for me because of my circumstances—that I am lucky. 
Until there is some momentum and change behind some of these major problems facing modern parents—childcare costs, maternity leave, best practices for a child’s health and well-being—we have to talk about this. You have to be willing to say that you struggle with this too. And if you, a lower middle class or middle class or upper middle class parent, are willing to say that you’ve struggled, then we can start focusing on the people who live at or below the poverty line—about 46 million people in this country. They are the mothers and fathers who have few options and who can’t make the “hard” choices about breastfeeding, childcare and what elaborate decorations to have at their child’s first birthday party, because there may be no choices to be had. 
It’s okay for modern parenting to look fun and attractive. Having a child is beautiful and there are beautiful things about parenting. But that’s not the whole story and we do each other and millions of other people a disservice by pretending that these issues don’t affect us too. Start learning. Share parenting challenges instead of hiding them. Acknowledge that there are problems with the system and problems that we also help the system perpetuate. 
If I struggled to come up with a three-four week maternity leave, if we agonized over the cost of childcare in our area, if I received a slew of health care bills that could have bankrupted us if not for a last second stroke of luck, if I cannot seem to find any home/life balance most days, if my biggest impediment to having a second child is because I don’t think we can afford it, what are the stark realities facing those less fortunate than myself?

For several months, we had worked out a childcare arrangement for Isobel with a family friend who she knew well. It was great and she loved having another child her age to play with during the day, but unfortunately a few things (scheduling, distance, etc.) threw a wrench into the plans and so we began looking for a childcare facility closer to our home for her to attend 3 days a week or so. Brandon is home on Mondays so we didn’t want full-time care because our schedules are often varying and flexible.

Childcare in our area is exorbitantly expensive. Well—everything in our area is expensive. Housing is expensive. Transportation is expensive. We had done some childcare research before Isobel was born, but it was only cursory because at that time we were planning for other arrangements to work out—and they didn’t. We began looking in earnest a few months ago. There were a few problems right off the bat. First, many childcare facilities in our area have long waiting lists, even for older infants and toddlers. (It’s common for daycares to have waiting lists for newborns but at some of the fancier facilities in our area, there were year-long waiting lists for toddlers.) Second, and I want to be completely honest here—we could not afford several of the daycares that did have availability. We were willing to look into a full-time option where there was no part-time available, but soon discovered that the average full-time care cost at some of the nicer facilities that did have availability was north of $1,800 per month. The full-time cost at a daycare right around the corner from our home was over $2,200 a month. We live a comfortable life and our income is above the average for this area. But we cannot afford to pay $2,000 a month for daycare.

We kept looking and eventually circled back to a daycare I’d toured months earlier and loved. They offered part-time care (a huge bonus, since it’s difficult to find) and had a lovely facility, great caregivers in each “classroom” and provided two snacks a day. It’s still expensive, but not prohibitively so. They didn’t have a consistent slot available for Isobel but worked with us to get a couple definite days a week and we’d be able to take another kid’s spot if he/she didn’t show up that day. Eventually we’ll move her into a spot permanently and this was a way to get our foot in the door, so to speak. Her first day was a little dicey, but she did well, ate all her food and played a little bit, although they said she was initially wary of all the new commotion. That seemed to be how things would progress—maybe a few off days here and there while she adjusted, but we expected that.

Yesterday in the late afternoon, I was working and trying to finish up a few more items on my to-do list. I saw my phone buzz and it was Isobel’s daycare. Never a good sign, so I was already anxious when I answered. It was the head caregiver from her room and she told me that Isobel had been crying nearly all day. She had eaten, a good sign, but needed near constant comforting and wanted to be held and it was becoming difficult for the caregivers in the room to give enough attention to the other children. She advised me to come as soon as I could so we could discuss our options. She asked, “Why doesn’t Isobel come more often during the week?” I replied that it was because there wasn’t a permanent slot that she could fill and we were waiting until one opened up. She said that Isobel would probably need a more permanent schedule so she could get used to being there and not have stranger anxiety all over again each time she was dropped off. I agreed, but reminded her that that’s what I wanted—it just wasn’t available. They assured me that they would try to work out what they could and see if they can nail down three or four specific days a week that she could attend.

When I got off the phone, I was at a total loss. Should I be sad? Angry? I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. I would say I was discouraged, but that’s a little too timid a word for how overwhelmed I felt. I called Brandon and told him what was going on. I said, “What can I do? I feel like I can’t win. I can’t take care of her at home and work too, and I don’t know how to help her daycare to make this better.”

In this weird world of modern parenting, there is this horrible dichotomy that says that you can make the best decisions for your children if you “know all the information,” but that also continually promotes guilt and judgment if the decision you choose is not the one that is trendy, not the one that is socially normative or not the one that upper-middle class or well-off families make. Jessica Valenti’s book “Why Have Kids?” illustrated this really well. As a collective society, we wring our hands over breastfeeding or helping kids sleep through the night or practicing attachment parenting or giving them perfectly assembled nurseries or going back to work after an extended, paid maternity leave or discussing the stresses or benefits of being at a stay at home parent. Let me be clear: you have a certain amount of privilege if these are the issues on your parenting plate. For the women who have difficulty breastfeeding and have no maternity leave, or perhaps their workplace doesn’t allow them the time and space to pump, they don’t have a choice. For the parents who don’t have a separate bedroom for their new baby because they’re living in a one-room or studio apartment, sleep training is obviously problematic. And, if you don’t have a separate bedroom for a baby, there is no nursery to decorate—assuming you have the money and time to do it anyway. Attachment parenting? For a mother who has to return to work right away, that “parenting style” is not even on the table. As far as paid maternity leave—it barely exists in this country. Let me say that again because it’s something we like to pretend isn’t a reality: PAID MATERNITY LEAVE BARELY EXISTS IN THIS COUNTRY. Oh, women have the option of twelve weeks unpaid leave at most workplaces. That’s roughly equivalent to six paychecks. How many families can afford to miss six paychecks? 40% of Americans have less than $500 in savings. Could your family afford to miss six paychecks? If you can hobble together enough sick leave, vacation days, personal days and short-term disability benefits, you may be able to eke out six weeks. What happens after those six weeks or two weeks or twelve weeks you’ve been gone from work? Two options: someone stays home and watches your child (maybe you, maybe a family member) or you find childcare. The average cost of daycare in the US is over $11,000 a year. The average wage in the US is about $43,000 per year. After childcare, that average worker is now making $32,000 per year. The average wage in Maryland is about $52,000 per year. If a Maryland resident is paying about $1,700 a month in childcare (or $20,400 per year), they’ve just negated their income entirely. They’ve nearly halved it.

There is a frosted glass placed between the realities of modern parenting and modern motherhood (because there are some issues that intrinsically relate to the role of a modern mother) and the competent and stylish veneer that is too often sold as “real life.” Of course—and I have to say it—this is perpetuated by the parenting-on-display qualities of blogging. You see US Weekly and Life&Style headlines at the grocery checkout proclaiming amazing “post baby bods,” but it gets a lot harder to ignore and hits much closer to home when you see “real life” moms looking amazing post-birth on their blog. Magazines show gorgeous nurseries and talk about exciting new toys or activities for children, but when bloggers showcase the same things, it gets harder to justify that it’s not something you’re supposed to be creating or doing too.

Through no fault of our own, there was a lapse where I was uninsured and did not have health insurance shortly before I found out I was pregnant. It was set to kick back in about a month after we found out. At one point, we received a bill for some standard lab testing and for whatever reason, our insurance hadn’t received the claim yet. The bill was for $11,000. The external cephalic version I had near the end my pregnancy would have cost us over $4,000 out of pocket if I hadn’t had health insurance. (Even still, we had to pay close to $1,000.)

I’ve never realized how vulnerable and inadequate I could feel until I found out I was pregnant. There are a million possibilities for both emotional and financial bankruptcy. Every decision seems like the biggest one you’ll ever make. But I understand that because I have to make decisions in some cases—that they aren’t just made for me because of my circumstances—that I am lucky.

Until there is some momentum and change behind some of these major problems facing modern parents—childcare costs, maternity leave, best practices for a child’s health and well-being—we have to talk about this. You have to be willing to say that you struggle with this too. And if you, a lower middle class or middle class or upper middle class parent, are willing to say that you’ve struggled, then we can start focusing on the people who live at or below the poverty line—about 46 million people in this country. They are the mothers and fathers who have few options and who can’t make the “hard” choices about breastfeeding, childcare and what elaborate decorations to have at their child’s first birthday party, because there may be no choices to be had.

It’s okay for modern parenting to look fun and attractive. Having a child is beautiful and there are beautiful things about parenting. But that’s not the whole story and we do each other and millions of other people a disservice by pretending that these issues don’t affect us too. Start learning. Share parenting challenges instead of hiding them. Acknowledge that there are problems with the system and problems that we also help the system perpetuate.

If I struggled to come up with a three-four week maternity leave, if we agonized over the cost of childcare in our area, if I received a slew of health care bills that could have bankrupted us if not for a last second stroke of luck, if I cannot seem to find any home/life balance most days, if my biggest impediment to having a second child is because I don’t think we can afford it, what are the stark realities facing those less fortunate than myself?