Q&A: out of sync with sex schedule during pregnancy

M writes:

"I’m 6+ months pregnant with baby #2 and have zero sex drive.  Generally uncomfortable (the baby is big and very active), and very tired (have started getting extra iron to combat anemia, so I’m hoping that will help).  Husband’s libido is still intact, maybe even in overdrive due how much he likes how I look pregnant.

Our compromise has been to try to go to bed early once or twice a week to have sex or whatever we decide to do.  Trouble is, my definition of early is way earlier than his.  I’m usually drooling on the couch in front of the TV by 10, and he’s a nightowl, working late or unwinding (he does come home for lunch and dinner/bath/bedtime for our son).  I’ve tried staying up later to accommodate his schedule, but I’m too tired to enjoy anything, and I can’t sleep in because I have to get up with our 3 yo in the morning.  He thinks I "rush off to bed" when he works late and comes home at 10:30 or 11, trying to avoid him.

The few times sex has been enjoyable during this pregnancy are when our son is in daycare and we both take the morning off and spend the time talking and cuddling for a long time first.  Not so practical in the evening.

Any suggestions?"

I love a softball on a Monday morning.

Throughout history, people (mostly men) have gone to incredible lengths to have sex. They’ve worked out with Charles Atlas, amassed huge fortunes, gotten a big-nosed friend to write love poetry that they’d pretend was theirs, stuffed their pants with potatoes, spied on Phoebe Cates through the window, pretended to be their own twin sister, worked 7 years for her father after being given the wrong sister to marry, done crazy amounts of manual labor to get someone to teach them how to play bass so they could be in a band, lied, cheated, stolen, and done all sorts of other Herculean tasks, both moral and immoral, to have sex.

All your husband has to do is come home at 9 pm.

This doesn’t seem like a particularly complicated logic puzzle to me. You are growing another human being inside your body, which makes your body shut off at 10 pm. There’s nothing you can do about that. Your husband can control when he comes home. He wants to have sex. You don’t care one way or the other. Therefore, the onus is on him to be ready at 9 pm for sex.

You probably don’t want to present it to him this way, but you should definitely point out that you are GROWING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING INSIDE YOUR BODY and that’s a little taxing. You love having sex with him, but you just physically can’t stay awake, so you need to have sex at 9 pm or not at all. It’s absolutely nothing to do with him. (At this point give him a kiss that will shoot straight down to his groin.) You don’t care if he stays to snuggle afterward, but you can’t stay awake to have sex if he comes home at 10. Thank you for being so understanding. (Another kiss.)


He definitely gets points for liking the way you look pregnant. But he really needs to understand how physically exhausting it is to be pregnant. (Did I mention that you’re growing another human being inside your body?) And, yes, at this point in your lives, you get to dictate the sex schedule. It’s just the way it is right now.

Anyone else? (If you want to comment anonymously, put a fake name in the name space, fake email address in the email space, and an obviously fake URL like www.fake.com or www.google.com in the URL space.)

Coolest lunch ever

Way back in the ’70s, my mom was a La Leche League leader with this really amazing woman who had a daughter my age. Flash forward 30 years, and the daughter, Beth, is now a mom of 3 kids and an Ask Moxie reader. And a way cooler mom than I’ll ever be. Listen to what she’s doing with her kids’ lunches:

"My mom thought you might find my new
"passion" interesting.  I’ve taken to bento boxes.  Have a hard time
getting my 5 and 8 year old to eat healthy.The only vegetable they like is
artichoke, and once in awhile corn.  Both of which won’t make it in the
lunch box.  I’ve loved Japanese culture since Akiko, an exchange student in
high school, introduced me to her culture.  So we’ve become bento-addicts
in my house.  The first lunch was peanut butter and jelly flower sandwiches
(healthy pb and j), a molded hard boiled egg, crackers, cucumber flowers,
homemade ranch dip, mandarin oranges, soy milk to drink.

The second attempt was molded jasmine rice, edamame
boiled, blueberry and oranges on skewers, soy ginger dipping sauce, rice crispy
treats and fruit chips.  I added honey wheat pretzels as the rice crispy
flower stems (not in the photo).

And.. the kids gobble this up!  I just ordered
soybean paper, as the taste/smell of nori turns me off http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/mamenorisoybeanpaper.htm

Lots of bento boxes have nori cutouts which I can
substitute the soy paper for.  There are nori stencils, but I
think I can use scrap booking tools from any store to cut the soy

Making lunch has become my nightly, 1/2-hour of
artistic fun, with the kids.  They LOVE to pick out what to put in their
bentos.  From what fruits or veggies can we use to what types of protein
can we find. And how can we make yummy dips.    I thought people
were nuts taking photos (flickr devotes pages to bentos), but I found I was so
proud of my little creations that I had to take pics.

And the egg molds…. the coolest thing I’ve
found ever!"

And she sent pictures:



Now I’m feeling reeeeeeeally guilty about leaving my kids with leftover pasta with tricked-out jarred sauce for lunch…

Q&A: daycare won’t let baby cry to release tension before sleep

Jennifer writes:

"I have a one year old that does the same thing your second did; everytime she goes to bed she will scream (like someone is trying to kill
her) for a few minutes and then fall asleep. She HAS to do this or she
will not sleep. It took me almost 8 months to figure that out. I just
want to know how long this lasts because she is in daycare and they
won’t let her scream (they really can’t for the sake of everyone else)
so she doesn’t nap well. Every night I have a tired, cranky baby and I
just want to see her when she’s happy. I don’t have other childcare
options right now and I haven’t found a solution for her to get more
sleep during the day. Please tell me this won’t go on forever!"

That’s a coincidence, because my babysitter won’t let my younger one cry at all ever, so he’s been getting really awful naps for the past two weeks. Today it was half an hour. At least in your situation they have a valid reason for not going along with what the kid needs.* (I appreciate my babysitter’s desire to comfort my son, but it’s really counterproductive because it takes him under 3 minutes of crying and then he drops off like a boulder for two hours plus.)

I wonder if there’s any way they could separate her from the other kids during nap time and have her in a room she could scream in. Or figure out some other way to help her release the tension. She’s too young to be able to just run around until she drops (I’ve seen some kids do almost exactly that–they run and run and run and then sit down and within 2 minutes they’re asleep).

I wonder if getting her laughing would serve the same purpose?

Clearly, I’m grasping for straws here. Does anyone else have any ideas? I just don’t know what to do about a kid who really just needs to wait for a few minutes but can’t. I think eventually she’ll learn to fall asleep somehow (millions of kids survive non-optimal naps sleep situations–ask any mother of two how the second one gets the nap shaft), but there’s got to be some way to ease her into falling asleep without howling and waking the other kids.

I just can’t think of it yet.


* If you weren’t reading for my discussion about some kids needing to cry briefly to release some tension before falling asleep this all won’t make sense. I’m too lazy to go find the original post about it, but this one also contains my completely unoriginal "at least two kinds of kids" theory about crying to sleep.

Q&A: pacifiers: boon to society or bane of your existence?

I’ve gotten several questions in the last few weeks from parents of young babies (in the 3-5 month range) who are caught in the pacifier trap and can’t walk out. The baby falls asleep with the pacifier, but then wakes up when it falls out, and can’t go back to sleep until someone pops the pacifier back in. Lather, rinse, repeat all night long.

I wrote a post on this last year (is April just a bad month for pacifiers?), but we might as well revisit it now. I don’t have any newer answers than what I wrote before. I never had to deal with it, since my first son could fall back alseep in the middle of the night without the pacifier (and we were still nursing at night with him in the bed at that point anyway), and my second son would never take a pacifier. So my advice is all speculation. The readers had some good suggestions the first time.

So this time I’m asking for encouragement for our hopeless parents. And we might as well use this as a chance to debunk some pacifier myths by sharing our experiences. Did your baby use a pacifier? For how long? How did you get rid of it (if you have) and was it hard or easy? If you got rid of the pacifier sometime in the 3-5-month range, how did you do it?

I’ll start with my short and boring history: Child 1 refused a pacifier until 12 weeks, then used one only to fall asleep. At 8 months or so we went on vacation and forgot the pacifiers, and he never missed them. Child 2 would never take one.


Breast Pumps

It’s time for our collected wisdom.

Linda writes:

Hey, have you done any posts about the best breast pump?  I couldn’t
find anything when I poked around.  Last time I rented a fancy hospital
pump because I wasn’t sure how long I could nurse twins.  This time I’m
fairly confident I can nurse one baby for a year+ so it makes more
sense to buy a pump for $300 than rent a pump for $50/month.

First of all, let me say "Dude!" to Linda and all other moms of twins (or triplets!) who nursed at all. That learning curve must have been nightmarish. Now on to breast pumps.

All I have personal experience with is the Avent Isis, and I highly recommend it if you only need to pump once a day or less. It’s a hand pump, yes, but the petal action is so good that you don’t have to give yourself carpal tunnel pumping it. Plus their customer service is awesome. A part broke on mine, and they overnighted a replacement part cheerfully at no cost. Then, 3 years later, I couldn’t find one of the parts (same pump), and they overnighted the replacement part cheerfully at no cost. The only thing to know about the Isis is that if you put that little round white rubber disk in the wrong way you won’t get any suction. So if you have no suction, flip the white rubber disk and see if that fixes it (the asterisk striations should face in toward the horn of the pump).

I saw a new, double-barrelled, electric Isis in a store a few weeks ago. Does anyone have any experience with it?

Everyone loves the Medela Pump In Style, so I’m guessing a lot of you do, too.

I know some of you are true pumping champs, so share your experience. What pump do you have? Do you like it? Would you buy it again? Why or why not? Any quirks people should know about? Don’t forget to tell us how often you pump.

(Oh, and don’t be afraid to say negative things if you had a bad experience, because you’ll be saving someone from wasting money on a bad pump.)

Q&A: post-partum insomnia and irrational fears

Continuing with the theme of admitting how hard this can be sometimes…

Wendy writes:

"I’ve developed insomnia. 8 month old baby wakes up only 1x per night now (hooray) sometime between 2-5 am. I breastfeed, he goes back to sleep and I lay awake for a couple of hours. I’ve also lost my ability to nap. Overtired? PPD?

Also, since the baby was born, I’ve become afraid to fly (plane crash), afraid to drive (car crash), afraid to walk around the block (car crashing into the stroller), afraid of sitting in my house (tree falling over and crushing us), afraid to go into the bank (bank holdup)….I have not become a shut-in but find myself preoccupied with worst case scenarios."

I think this is post-partum anxiety, which is technically different from PPD, but I think is also caused by a complex interaction of factors, including hormones.

I am going to hazard a guess that a lot of us have suffered from some mild form of insomnia after having babies. Which is an unbelievable pisser*, because if the baby is actually asleep, it’s cruel that we aren’t, too. I’ve definitely gone through periods of this, even when I was not depressed in any other way. And it seemed to ebb and flow with my hormones and exercise and nutritional intake.

I also noticed (and why do I feel still a little scared to admit this, even now?) that I had preoccupations and almost visions of something bad happening for the first few months with both my kids. With my older one, I was constantly worried that a car would jump the sidewalk and hit the stroller and kill him. Sometimes I couldn’t get the thought out of my head, and I’d lie awake at night worried about it. Then when I had the second baby, the fear was that somehow my older one would accidentally snap the baby’s spinal cord and leave him paralyzed. I could not shake that fear for a good 4-5 weeks, starting about 2 weeks after the baby was born. I’d be sitting with them both, playing with the older one and holding the baby, seeing it happen in my mind as if it was a memory instead of some cruel mind trick.

The one good thing was that with the second one I didn’t worry that there was something wrong with me, and I have the blog world to thank for that. By that time I’d read enough "shameful confessions" online to know that there are things we’re afraid to admit, but that a lot of us are dealing with. Just because I hadn’t heard other women joking around about how afraid they were of really unlikely things in the first few months didn’t mean tons of us didn’t deal with it.

But back to Wendy’s problem: Just because lots of us have dealt with the insomnia and ultra-worry doesn’t mean that you should have to suffer through it. I think that taking Omega 3 supplements (2,000-3,000 mg a day of fish oil or flax seed oil**), getting 20-30 minutes a day of exercise, and getting 10-15 minutes a day of sunshine will probably fix you up in about a week or two. At least to the point that you can catch your breath and figure out what else you need that can ease your load and help you start to reach out to get some help.

You may find that you need counseling and/or anti-depressants, but I’d rather see you do the Omega 3s and exercise and sunshine first, because if your body’s a little off-kilter you should fix that first before going on meds so they’ll be even more effective (and just so your body doesn’t get depleted). I’d give them a few weeks to kick in, then call your doctor if things aren’t significantly better. (Mention "crippling insomnia" and "persistent worries" to get them to take you seriously.)

Here’s something really interesting I read in Erica Lyon’s The Big Book of Birth (I have a review copy, so I don’t know if my page number would be helpful, but it’s in the last paragraph of the "Massage" section in Chapter 4):

a recent study showed that if a partner massaged a new mother for fifteen minutes a day it is as effective (!) as medication for moderate postpartum depression.

I think it’s probably a combination of feeling taken care of by someone else and the way massage helps your body regulate itself (the same way getting regular massages helps you fight off colds better in the winter). But if you have a partner or friend who would be willing to massage you for 15 minutes every day, it might help regulate your system, too.

So. Yeah. It’s a problem, but you’re not a freak because it’s not that unusual (unfortunately), and it’s treatable.

Anyone want to share? Bizarre fears you had when your babies were little? The most sobbingly cruel episode of "I finally got this child to sleep and now I can’t fall asleep myself" you can remember? What you’re wearing today? (It’s supposed to be gorgeous and sunny here in NYC on Monday, so I’ll probably be wearing a red-and-white patterned wrap dress and red slingbacks to work.)


* By the North American phrase "pissed off," meaning angry, not "pissed" meaning drunk, which would undoubtedly be more pleasant.

** Hey, I still have no idea what the deal is with flax seed oil, whether it’s completely safe for all of us, or not so great for fetuses but fine for post-partum moms, or whatever. I’m still tempting fate by taking it, but know that I’m not a doctor or nutritionist and am not recommending it specifically so take it at your own risk.

Q&A; is my 3-year-old fat?

Frequent commenter Carla writes:

I just got back from my 3 year old daughter’s well-child check up.
Doctor said she looks great.  Just for kicks, I looked up her
height/weight percentiles and BMI — and discover that, at 37.5 inches,
and 37.5 pounds, BMI 18.8, she is overweight???  At those stats, she is
over the 95th percentile weight and about the 6oth height.  Her weight
percentiles have ranged widely in her life, from 50th at birth, to
about 15th at 1 year, to 60th at 2 years.  I am 5-3, 120 lbs, my
husband 5-8, 160, so we’re not big people.

I think we eat pretty healthy in our house, though I could
probably push the fruits/veggies more as snacks than things like
pretzels and goldfish.  She does get some desserts, but not lots of
candy/sweets, and no juice (just doesn’t like it).  Like many toddlers,
she likes things like macaroni and cheese, quesadillas, chicken
tenders, etc etc more than spinach and broccoli, but I try.  She is
quite picky and I get tired of making things she won’t eat so maybe I
am giving her too much starch?  She is very active and gets lots of
time running around at the park and preschool, though no organized
sports (she is 3, after all). 

Now, she doesn’t seem particularly petite to me, but I certainly
wouldn’t call her fat, either.  More to the point, how much should I
worry about this?  I don’t want to give her a complex — but nor do I
want her to get off to a bad start in life.  Help!"

At 3 she’s still growing, and all the height and weight stuff is still evening out. You can’t really pay attention to the charts, since they don’t take into account all the stuff that’s unique to your family and to her.

I have one who was almost off the charts for weight at around that age, but this is what I focused on instead to figure out if he was healthy:

1. What he ate. Was he getting a range of vitamins? Halfway decent variety? Enough good fat? Not too much sugar? He was fine, although probably ate a few too many bagels over the course of a month. It sounds like you’ve got the diet covered as much as anyone can at this age. It’s relaly hard to go low starch with toddlers.

2. How much exercise he gets. Mine ran around constantly. It sounds like your daughter does, too.Perfect.

3. How his mood was. If his energy was good, he was sleeping decently, and he wasn’t having unusual behavior (spacey) or angry outburts he couldn’t seem to control (both those things can be signs of bad reactions to things he’s eating)  then things were OK. It sounds like there are no problems like this with your daughter.

Forget about the charts for right now. My bet is that this time next year you’ll be wondering if she’s too skinny.

Why can’t I love this, Continued

Amazing comments, as usual. Was anyone else completely flabbergasted by this little gem from Julie:

I feel like I am a prisoner of the love I feel for my child.

Wow. Yeah.

I really don’t know what to say about that. I’m on the other side of it now, that feeling of just being so awash in the combo of love and fear (about something concrete, like SIDS or painful diaper rash or malnutrition, or something nebulous, like not doing all the things a "good mother" does) and constant constant need. Once 2 gets closer, it gets less all-encompassing.

But I can still remember exactly the way it feels, and reading that all of you are in the middle of it makes me wish I could send you all a big hug, a full-body massage, and a cup of tea.

Here’s something for today (actually tomorrow, since I’m writing this on Wednesday night, even, instead of scrambling to do it between my shower and blending my spinach smoothie to drink on the way to work–yay me!):

Describe a moment of clarity (positive or negative or neutral) that you’ve had about yourself or parenting or your relationship with your child.

I’ll go first. I remember one morning, when my older son was a few months old, and I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of the day. It was not one of the days I went out to a breastfeeding support group or the mothers’ group, and I didn’t really have friends I could just call up and say "So what are we doing today?" yet. It was hot and I was cranky and I’d already sung "I’ve Been Working On the Railroad" a dozen times (if you blow a raspberry every time you sing "Dinah won’t you blow" it makes a baby laugh).

So I was sitting there, thinking about what a loser I was for having no plans, not really "stimulating" him "enough" (see, even the aggressively zen Moxie buys the bullshit at full price sometimes), and really just not wanting to jump through all the hoops all day. And then he looked at me and just snuggled in. And I had this flash of realization that I didn’t have to do anything, that exactly what I was is exactly who he needed. I could not fail, because all he needed was me, as I was.

It was one of the most liberating moments of my life. And then I probably called my mom and overanalyzed it with her, because that’s what we do.


Q&A: why can’t I love this? (Edited)

(Hey, I just realized that I forgot to add the word "all" in my sentence about not being able to do it all without anti-depressants. Ha! I meant to write that no one can do it all without anti-depressants. Certainly you can do some of it without anti-depressants. If you can cut yourself some slack. But again, another sign of depression is not being to cut yourself some slack. Just be gentle with yourself, OK? If you need to go anti-depressants, please do so. If you don’t need them, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that all mom are on them–that would be as much of a fallacy as the idea that all moms are happy all the time. I’d like to banish any statements starting with "all moms are" anyway.

Now I’m going to go read the comments. I hope no one got alarmed or had her feelings hurt by my leaving out the word "all.")

Sorry about that. All the rain did something to the cable connection to our building,and I couldn’t get on the internet to post anything. (I’m about to post my comment on Monday’s work question at the end of that post. I agreed with all of you, of course.)

Here’s one I’ll also need your support  with. Lucy writes:

"This a pretty vague question: but how can I relax and enjoy motherhood more? I had a great pregnancy but a difficult birth with my daughter who is now 8 months. Tough recovery and breastfeeding problems followed and now, though she sleeps and eats well, I’m always worrying about something or beating myself up. I know that I need to let go of expectations and be more zen, but keep finding that so difficult as an erstwhile professional who is used to having everything under control. I don’t want to look back and realise I’ve missed out on the good times. I think part of the problem is that I forgot I was going to have a baby and was looking forward to being mum to an independent 3 year old!"

I think basically all mothers are victims of propaganda. We’re allowed to think that pregnancy is all positive, wonderful rainbows and sunshine, but a huge percentage of us have hormone-related depression that makes us feel horrible and sold out. Let’s not even talk about the delivery and birth, which have so much baggage attached to them even before we get to the tough painful part. (Let’s think about it–labor and delivery hurts like hell coming or going already. Isn’t that enough? Why add all this strange mythology to it, too to give all of us a nice case of pre-post traumatic stress disorder?) And if you adiopt, well, we don’t even know how to think about that, et alone talk about it. Then we get to the actual motherhood, and it’s really hard and there’s no real reward for weeks and weeks, and then the reward is just a smile.

And yet everyone, at every stage of the game, keeps saying, "But it’s sooooo worth it."

Well, duh. Yes, it’s worth it. Your children are the joys of your life. But. It still sucks at all stages of the game, either a little or a lot.

People give sympathy for the first few months, because they’re like being captured by aliens. But by the time your baby is 8 or 9 months old you’re supposed to ahve a handle on it. The baby is plumped up and sweet-looking, like a magazine baby. Everyone in your mother’s group is lying and saying their baby is "sleeping through the night " (5 measly hours! Is it even a worthy goal?).

But it’s still really hard emotionally. I kind of think that that’s about the age when it starts to sink in that this IS the New Normal. Whether you’re at home or at work all day, the baby exhausts you. And then there’s the whole nighttime routine, and middle-of-the-night stuff. And thinking about the food all the time. But you’re also supposed to have lost all of the baby weight, and having an amazing sex life with your husband, and  be up on current events, and either totally present at your job or gleefully happy about being at home.

Honestly, it’s just too freaking much. No one can do it [all] without the help of anti-depressants.

So, Lucy, my advice to you is to cut yourself some slack. All those moms who look so zen (and people tell me I’m one of them–apparently I look calm all the time) are really just fantasizing about having a night alone in a hotel with nice sheets and no one else there wanting something from them. It’s not like everyone else is totally in the moment and you’re not. Everyone’s dropping the ball in one way or another. It’s just that some of us are forcing ourselves to be OK with dropping those balls.

It does not pay to be perfect. Even if it was possible, it’s a crappy way to live. 8 months is hard. You’ll like 3 years better. If you can accept that now isn’t your favorite time and see your daughter as equally captive to her normal developmental stages, it might be easier on you emotionally.

Anyone else? Did you have any big "I don’t have to be perfect" moments you’d like to share? Any "I hated this stage but ended up loving the next one" times? Freestyle bitching about feeling sold out by our culture is also welcome.

Hey–once again I’m late for work! No time to spellcheck.

A Case of the Mondays

Taxes (and problems getting into the right websites to do them), and all this bizarre rain is making me punchy.

Maggie writes:

"Now that you’re WOH maybe you’ll have some perspective on what I should do. My new coworker has decided that I’m her confidant, and she’s telling me some details of her life that I really just don’t want to know. Also, she’s been pretty deliberate in hiding this stuff from management, and I have no idea why, but it makes me feel really uncomfortable, like there’s way more stuff she’s hiding.

I don’t want to be involved in any of this, but I also feel some duty to tell my boss that she may be a chronic liar. Help."

a) This sucks. B) I’m late for work, so I’m just going to open it up to the readers. When I get home tonight I’ll put what I think, which is probably what everyone else will say.

Also, I’m totally curious about these details of her life. Bad me.

Must go put on my flair and leave for work. Ciao.

Update: Here I am again. I totally agree that the only real thing to do is try not to talk about anything with this woman. Just try to be pleasant, but as busy as you can be. If her lies seem to be directly related to work (like she embezzled money or accepted large gifts from clients, etc.) then you should give your boss a heads-up. But if it’s just general character issues, she’ll shoot herself in the foot eventually. You should stay as far away from all this as you can. Triangulation is very bad, and if you triangulate yourself into the situation by going to your boss you will not come out unscathed.