I Used To Be Me

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It’s “Whoa, Mama!” Wednesdays here at Ms. Mary Mack. This is when we feature a fab first-time mommy sharing how she dealt/is dealing with Mommyhood and all the changes, challenges and incredible cloud nine moments that come with the gig.

Now, when we say first-time mom it doesn’t necessarily mean her baby is fresh out the oven five weeks ago. Maybe the kid’s 7 and still breastfeeding. No judgment here … OK, maybe on that mini-adult getting milk from the boob thing.

Moving on.

I’m quite pleased to have in our inaugural “Whoa, Mama!” spotlight acclaimed author Sarah Langan!

Sarah is one scary lady. And by scary, I mean outstanding horror fiction writer. Her first novel, The Keeper (2006), was a New York Times Editor’s Pick. Her second novel, The Missing (2007), won the Bram Stoker Award for outstanding novel. And her third novel, Audrey’s Door (2009) is a dark and chilling story about a haunted apartment in NYC. [UPDATE 3/30: Sarah won Best Novel at Bram Stoker Awards for Audrey’s Door.] Look, the New York Times Book Review even compared the her to Mary Shelley. I’m telling you, this chick’s creeptastic.

Photo by Nicole Blades

She greets me at the front door of her Brooklyn brownstone with her 10-month old daughter Clementine settled on her hip. They both have wide, welcoming eyes. Soon Clem (as her mom calls her) and her round, sweet face, are gone. Time for a walk now that the afternoon nap is over. Sarah offers coffee. Water is fine. We move into the living room to chat. Our legs tucked under us, we sink back into cushion-y seats.

Life before baby …
Those were long crazy days. I was going to graduate school full-time for environmental toxicology and writing my second novel. I was probably spending less time writing everyday then than now.

My boyfriend (now husband) and I bought this house in 2008. It was a real fixer-upper. For me, that year was about getting married, this house, and writing my third book.

I never thought really thought about motherhood …
For more than half my life, all I wanted was to get published. That was what I worked for; my single-minded goal since 19. I didn’t even date anyone seriously until I was 30! [She’s 35.]

I got pregnant on my honeymoon. Somehow I thought it would take years to get pregnant, but we were just so lucky. It could have been hard.

Then came Clem …
She was born May 14, 2009, and my novel was coming out later that year in October. I had a lot on my plate between book, baby and still getting this house. So I went kind of crazy. I didn’t even take a day off from any of it, which was really dumb.

My advice to anyone is, just take the three months [maternity leave]. You’re not weak for taking the time. I thought it was a show of weakness, but in retrospect I just exhausted myself and got less done.

In the beginning, I didn’t find adjusting to having a baby that difficult …
I had all of these resources, people wanting to help. What my husband and I did was took days: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., and you picked your shift for parent duty. When it was his shift and she was hungry, my husband would bring Clem to me. I would nurse and then go back to work on the computer, and his shift continued. Everyone told me, “You’re such a champ!” It was three, four months later that was the problem. I just hit a wall. I got anemic. I couldn’t carry her down the stairs. I was just done.

What was challenging for me at that 3-month point was breastfeeding. It was really hard
And the pumping was kind of absurd. I want to bomb La Leche League because they make you feel so bad about [giving your baby formula]. I would go to the Writers Space and pump in their closet so I would have enough milk to feed my baby and she would never, ever have to touch formula.

There was so much pressure around breastfeeding. My husband was obsessed with it. That’s all people talked about. “You can tell that baby’s breastfed. Look at that baby. Oh, yeah, you can tell that baby’s breastfed.” And I fell for it, too. As a toxicologist, I know better! I’ve seen these articles that talk about the benefits of breast milk, and the studies only go up to six months. How it got extrapolated to [nurse for] a year, just doesn’t make that much sense to me.

I decided to stop breastfeeding a little before Clem turned nine months. And my energy came back almost instantly. Plus, as my husband and I came to see, our child is an independent child who wants to explore other things. She eats like a horse … she eats whole bananas. And Clem doesn’t like breastfeeding, she just doesn’t. She’s done with it. I mean the baby has teeth. She has teeth! The baby can drink other things. So it was pretty natural to end it. She pretty much weened herself.

If we could jump into a DeLorean and race back in time …
I would tell myself three things: Calm down, calm down, and, simply— Calm. Down.

~For more about Sarah and her horror stories, go to her web site Sarah Langan.com.

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