I Used To Be Me (part 6)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I’ve always wanted to know someone who lives in an apartment where the elevator opens up directly into their home. But—and this is a key point—said person would need to be cool and almost nonchalant about it, not ostentatious or smug. (Nothing spoils a mouth-open, wow moment quicker than an egotist.) Well, thanks to Erica Lee-Young, check and check. The minute I stepped off the elevator and into her Tribeca home’s kitchen, Erica made me feel like we were homies from way back. She was warm, welcoming and easygoing. Exactly what you want on an unseasonably sweltering Saturday morning.

Photo by Nicole Blades

Life before baby …
I was working full-time, all the time. I guess I had a social life. I could be spontaneous—go out with friends, go to the movies or go out for a walk. That kind of do whatever, whenever freedom.

The last couple of years I’ve been very focused on career. [She’s the Special Events Director at New York Magazine] Before that there were many other stages. (Laughs) I played keyboards and drums in bands, I had a T-shirt line, I was freelancing, and I had lots of free time. I did so much before deciding to start a family—I really went for it!

When I met my husband, kids were just not in our plan …
Then we got married. And I realized that I was getting close to 40. It was that clock ticking. I spoke to some friends who had been in similar positions—they have kids now but at some point were very ambivalent. They all said the same thing, “Erica, if you’re on the fence, it’s kind of looking like a yes. You need to think about it now.”

We started seeing all these kids in the street, and thought about it. It was like, I love you. Wouldn’t it be great to have another addition to our family. And I’m so glad I waited until this age, when I was ready.

I got pregnant pretty quickly …
But had a miscarriage. It was only six weeks in. It was this strange sense of loss, but what did I really lose? All the what-ifs.  It was pretty traumatic. But then I told people and started hearing, “Oh, yeah, I had one.” So many women around me went through this, and it showed me that it had nothing to do with age.

I was sad for a month, then I went to Miami with some girlfriends. Had a party … a couple of margeritas by the pool. Then waited a year before trying again. I wanted to chill out for a bit.  When I was ready, it happened quickly again. Of course, I was nervous for the first few months. We were holding it down and didn’t want to get too excited yet.

Then came Kenji …
He was born almost a year ago, May 26. I wasn’t one of those people who read books to try to prepare. Even for the baby shower, I was so last-minute with everything. I guess I was trying to be in-the-moment about things. Plus, I was nauseous the whole pregnancy, so I was only interested in lying on the couch!

Those first two months were tough. I didn’t regret not reading the books, but I did wish that my friends would’ve told me how truly tiring it will be. People said to sleep when the baby sleeps, but nobody told me that you really need to do that. I’m a doer, so when the baby was asleep I was thinking: Oh, I have this two-minute window to send an e-mail or put away a pot.

There was one friend, Leslie, who has a two-year-old daughter—she got it! She brought me food … like a whole meal that lasted three days! She brought me books for him. And she just jumped in a did all of my dishes while I was breastfeeding. My mother was also here. She was a great help. She came here to just do. My  husband Alex took off the first two weeks, so we were here (laughs) in it together!

The most challenging part about motherhood …
The time management. Trying to find time for me has been tough. I come home from work and put Kenji to bed, and my husband doesn’t come home until much later—he works in retail. I’m kind of trapped here. I can’t go out and leave my baby alone.

I miss going to dinner. I miss going for a walk with my husband. I miss coming home from work and going running. But Kenji’s in a good place, so I’m just starting to work all of that out now.

Best piece of advice I ever heard …
The best thing I was told—and I didn’t do it at first—was to sleep when the baby sleeps. I started actually doing that later when I realized it was the only way I would get some sleep!

We also got lots of bad advice. Well, not advice; more like stirring fear in us. They would say,  “It’s going to be hard. You better get your sleep on now. You’re going to be so tired.” It was like, “OK, you’re the 50th person to tell us this. You need to stop!” So I would say the best advice is to not listen to advice. It’s different experience for everybody.

Best baby gear …
Leslie gave us this mobile. It was a lifesaver. He would be enthralled for 20 minutes and even longer. Great! Now I can take a shower.

Biggest waste-of-time gear …
The bottle warmer. I think my husband just got rid of yesterday. We never opened it. Kenji’s room is small, so we wanted to  be smart about it and get the basics.

If we could jump into a DeLorean and race back in time …
I would tell myself to seek more support. Have your friends come over. Call people. I think I was so overwhelmed by it all and just focused on the baby. Just rely on people more. Ask for help.

Oh, and I would tell myself that swaddling really works so learn how to do that right away!

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