I Used To Be Me (part 3)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I met Normalinda Hammond at a moms’ group here in Brooklyn last spring. It was my first time attending this group’s meet-up at one mom’s apartment. Normalinda and I sat next to each on the couch. Our babies, both boys, were only three and four months old. Back then I was only able to remember the babies’ names, and that’s how their mothers were identified. That’s Frankie’s mom. And next to her is … Jake’s mother. I did remember Normalinda’s name, though. Mainly because it was Normalinda. Also, I remember she giggled often. And I liked that. It was pleasant, her laugh, and somewhat contagious.

Today, a full year later, I visit Normalinda at her Brooklyn apartment. Her son Thomas, a sweet toddler now, is the one leading the smile parade. His mom and I happily follow.

Photo by Nicole Blades

Life before baby …
We had only been married two months before we conceived. So the year before was wedding planning and then moving in together—we moved in two weeks after we got married. It was a lot of adjustment.

Before that, life was about being single and on my own, not having to share anything with anyone.

I’ve always wanted children …
Actually, I’ve had this image of being a working mom with three kids. Even in my high school yearbook, where it said what’s your plan, I said that I would get married at 30 and have three kids. Actually, my husband wanted five children. We settled on four. The idea of four kids wasn’t too much of a stretch from three!

Then came Thomas …
I never thought I would be doing this—raising a family—in New York. Even with that first plan of three kids and a working mom, I thought it would be back in Dallas/Fort Worth. That’s where a lot of my friends started having babies and getting married, back in their mid-20s. They all worked and were able to manage it. They were able to get off work at 5 p.m., and their mothers, who live nearby, also help out. That’s the picture I had of how my life would be.

I actually came to New York to have fun before I settle down. Of course, life is never as you plan it. So I get married at 30. I have a child, but I’m in Brooklyn. I don’t have my family living close by. I don’t even have a garage!

Making the decision to be a stay-at-home mom …
We talked about it when we starting thinking about family. I was in corporate communications before and those hours were not very forgiving. And with my husband (a litigator) working so many long hours, it would have been really hard.

I don’t see myself as a stay-at-home mom forever—even when we have more kids. As soon as the kids start school, I’m going back to work. If anything I feel like this is a time to think about starting a new career, starting fresh at something I really want to do.

Most challenging part of being a SAHM …
It’s making sure that he’s on par. I’m his only educator now. So I feel like he’s a reflection of me … it’s all my good work or my bad work. That’s one really good thing about living in Brooklyn, actually: being surrounded by these well-educated women who, especially with raising their own children, research and study everything, and then share all of that knowledge. I hear so many opinions about what works and what doesn’t. It’s great! I have this large community of moms helping me.

Most challenging part as a mother …
It was definitely not being able to make enough milk. It was huge. I had two lactation consultants, I was that desperate. Each one telling me different things. I even switched pediatricians because she didn’t think that the fact that Thomas wasn’t gaining weight was an issue.

Then I called the LC everyone calls, Freda Rosenfeld. I went to her house so I can weigh him—she has a scale at her home. I had never even been to Midwood, Brooklyn, but I took Thomas and we went by ourselves. Even after working with her, still no change. It was really heartbreaking. You know how some women feel like, Why is it so easy for others to conceive a child? I felt like that about breastfeeding. It’s something so natural. Why is it not happening naturally for me? It was crushing.

I nursed him for six months, plus supplementing [with formula], thinking a miracle would happen and I would be able to produce the milk. I negotiated with God sometimes. I just so wanted it work. I kept thinking, I am a stay-at-home mom, this is my only job.

I came to terms with the reality …
After I talked to Freda. She said, “You know what, honey, if it’s not working, just stop. Enjoy your child.” Hearing her say it—I guess I had to hear it from someone like Freda to believe that it was OK to stop.

And after that six-month mark, when I stopped trying to make milk, Thomas’ weight just skyrocketed. He looked like a completely different baby.

If we could jump into a DeLorean and race back in time …
I would tell myself, stop trying [with the breastfeeding] after three months. Stop torturing yourself. Enjoy your child. There’s other food—formula—for a reason!

  • 1
    kellycredit says:

    Wow! I just discovered your blog via Chookooloonks. This series of “I used to be me” is so timely. But my baby is EIGHT now and I still sometimes wonder what happend to “me”. But of course…its all good — just DIFFERENT in ways that are difficult to specify. In an attempt to help me be more “me” again I recently started blogging and I’m trying really hard to keep mommy-ing out of it and boy is that a challenge!

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mack says:

      Thanks, KellyCredit. (Isn’t Chookooloonks just a fantastic blog?)

      I’m glad you like this series. This blog is all about the transition we’ve made from “me to mom.” I’m looking forward to sharing more of these success stories with you.

      Do check back in soon!
      And I’m going over to your blog next.

  • 2
    alliwaw says:

    Well isn’t everything always clearer in hindsight?

    Good for you for trying for 6 mo. +. “Breast is Best” just seems to be in everyone’s face these days, but you know what – it’s not best for everyone. I mean my grandmother had five babies and breastfed none of them – it just wasn’t in fashion then and seen as a poor persons alternative. And now – SO TRENDY! I feel for you though – it can be frustrating!

    I had a little boy last September and it’s been a huge learning curve, and lots of fun. But like you, none of my family is here – that makes finding a babysitter a challenge. The only two dates we’ve had are when Gramma came to town…

    Anyway…Good luck! It’s great to have a supportive community of mothers who’ve got your back. Cheers, Alli

    • 2.1
      Normalinda says:

      Alli – Thanks so much for your nice comment. I definitely felt a lot of pressure to breastfeed and was frustrated when I saw how easy it was for other mothers. Things just don’t always turn out like we plan. I’m just grateful for a happy, healthy baby.

      Congratulations on your baby boy, Alli! I do hope you’re able to go out more often. One thing that’s been helpful are babysitting co-ops. Not sure where you live but it’s great if you live close to a few fellow moms and can take turns watching each other’s babies. Time is what you spend instead of $12 – $15 an hour. Plus, you know the moms a little better than the babysitters. Hope this helps!