Wednesday Advice Smackdown

This Week in Guilt

So week two. My first almost-full week, minus Monday, which means next week could suck progressively more.

I hate it. I hate it hate it hate it.

Noah loves it.

So there you go.


I have a conversation with a mother in Noah's room about the fabulousity of the Dr. Brown's bottles as we carefully label our children's food with colored tape and a Sharpie. 

Img_2090 The other mother is labeling a dizzying array of bottles, fruit and cereal for her nine-month-old and casually mentions that she never tried the wide-necked Dr. Brown's because her daughter was never breastfed. I look down at my standard, non-wide-necked bottles and quietly mumble that Noah is breastfed, but still never liked the wide-necks, and then realize that I sound like a total asshole.

I write BREASTMILK on two of Noah's bottles -- bottles that required four days' worth of pumping to fill -- and I write FORMULA on the last one and shove it in the back of the fridge. Asshole.

Img_2141 As I leave, I see Noah's eyes widen as he scans the room, looking for me. I make a choked-up, gasping noise that startles a staff member walking by, and she asks me if I'm okay. I affirm that I am and quickly walk away. I make it all the way back to the car before I start crying.

Every working mother at work stops by to offer encouragement and promises that it will get easier.

When I go back at noon to nurse him, he's settled in and barely notices that it's ME, MAMA, THE ONE THEY CUT YOU OUT OF AND WHO STILL CANNOT POOP RIGHT BECAUSE OF IT until my shirt is open and hello! Boobs!

But he keeps pulling away because he wants to turn around and see what the other babies are doing. He's fascinated by them, particularly the two older babies who can sit up and crawl. One of the teachers notices him watching the room and sings out his name, and he squeals with delight.

They play music to the infants all day long -- lullabies and sing-along songs and classical music. I realize how many Simpsons episodes have probably already embedded themselves in Noah's subconscious and feel a twinge of guilt.

Img_2160 When I pick him up in the evening, his teachers have written notes on his schedule to tell me how much they love him already. Jason isn't nearly as touched as I am, because "You know they're probably told to do that for the all new parents. So you won't freak out and withdraw in a week and not give them all your money."

Yeah, I know. But I quietly paste the schedule into Noah's baby book when Jason isn't looking.


I notice that there are a lot of dads who do the morning drop-off. They look only slightly less pained than the mothers.

There's a notice posted that the center has a confirmed case of the chicken pox.

I've never had the chicken pox, but can't get vaccinated until I stop breastfeeding. I put three bottles of formula in the fridge because I only managed to pump two measly ounces the day before.

Img_2082 Today, Noah doesn't look for me. He's all smiles and baby talk as I slip out of the room.

I'm really tired.

An older woman at work welcomes me back and asks to see photos of Noah. She asks me about childcare, and I only get as far as, "He's at a daycare center right down the..." before she scrunches up her face and makes a sad little "Oh!" sound.

When I drive over at lunch, there's a woman panhandling at an intersection. She's holding a sign that reads HOMELESS MOTHER OF THREE CHILDREN PLEASE HELP GOD BLESS YOU. I'm sure it's a scam -- other days there's a guy here with a different sign who claims to be a Vietnam veteran -- so I keep my window up and my eyes straight ahead. I feel really shitty by the time the light turns green.

His teachers are feeding two babies their cereal when I arrive. I quietly nurse him in the corner and try to ignore the baby who is howling in his crib to be picked up. The teachers call to him and sing and hurriedly feed the older ones before they go get him.

Part of me is horrified at the thought of Noah being left to cry all those agonizing minutes, and part of me remembers how that very morning I let him cry while I packed up his bottles and extra clothes while Jason hurriedly walked the dog. And then how he cried again when I put him down while I looked for my keys in the couch cushions.

At home that evening, Noah cries. A lot. I worry he's getting sick until I, going on sleep-deprived auto-pilot, call him "Handsome Boy." It's his teacher's nickname for him. He immediately smiles and laughs.



This is easy! Dropping him off is great! Look how happy he is! God. Why is he so happy? Why doesn't he scream like he does at home? Why did he cry all night last night and refuse to nurse? Why won't he stop smiling at his teacher? Why does he like these women better than me?

The center announces that it also has a confirmed case of pink eye.

I'm really, really tired.

Noah nurses distractedly at lunch again, and I'm getting the distinct feeling that the lunchtime visits are definitely more for my benefit than his. The more bottles he takes, the less patience he has for breastfeeding, and what's worse -- the chubbier he gets.Img_2164

I always assumed Noah was just one of those long, skinny babies. One week in daycare and big fat bottles of formula, and he's getting a double chin and fat rolls on his thighs.

"My GOD," I tell Jason on the phone, my voice quivering, "I've been STARVING him for 12 WEEKS. What kind of STUPID PERSON am I?"

Jason says it's probably just a growth spurt, but my hatred of my stupid, non-producing boobs burns once again.

When I arrive to take Noah home, one teacher has gone home and an aide is helping out until the room gets down to three babies. (Maryland law states that the ratio must be one teacher for every three infants.) She has Noah on a Boppy pillow and is singing to him. He's transfixed and smiling.

I pick him up and realize his diaper leaked and his clothes are wet.

His teacher is horrified. She chastises the aide for not noticing. She assures me that she just changed him less than a half hour before. She pulls out his chart to show me, that yes, he had been changed recently. She snaps at the aide again.

I suddenly realize she thinks I'm angry.

I laugh and assure her that this is Noah's favorite trick, and that I can't count the number of times I changed him, only to replace his entire outfit (or better still, his outfit AND mine) 15 minutes later. Diapers leak, and my boy pees a lot.

She doesn't seem convinced and apologizes again. Then tells me that Noah drank all the bottles I brought that morning and was acting hungry and fussy but they didn't have anything for him. Could I bring in an extra bottle tomorrow in case it happens again?

And now it's my turn to be horrified.  I apologize. I stammer. I go on and on about how I don't know how many bottles he needs since I nurse him at home. I tell them about the can of powdered formula in his cubby, but learn that the center meant a can of the pre-mixed formula, because of the rules about using tap water in the babies' bottles or something, and oh my GOD, I DIDN'T SEND IN ENOUGH FOOD FOR MY BABY, WHAT KIND OF MOTHER DOES THAT.

So we stand there for awhile, each frantically trying to explain a situation that didn't really need explaining, when Noah suddenly pees again. It arches up and in between us and we both yelp and jump out of the way.

And he laughs, and we laugh, because we both just want the very best for this hilarious little person.

When I get home, I realize that we conceived Noah exactly one year ago tonight. Holy shit. When I remind Jason of this, we spend a few moment in awed silence, gazing at Noah and thinking about the million other ways our story could have ended, and how ridiculously, insanely blessed we are.


Noah is asleep in his carseat when I arrive in the morning. His teacher unhooks him and gently lays him in his crib. I put bottles of formula in the fridge -- more bottles than he could possibly drink in a day -- and go over to say goodbye. He opens his eyes and gives me a lazy smile.

And I fucking lose it.

I stand over his crib and sob. His teacher is alarmed and tentatively puts an arm around me. She tells me that he is happy here and that they take special care of him. That they do everything they can to give him a mother's love.

I don't know how to tell her that's not it at all, and I cry harder.

The homeless woman with three kids is back at the intersection today. I roll down my window and give her a dollar.

Then I remember the $10 I paid earlier for the massage program my company offers every Friday and I feel like shit again.

Img_2113 Noah is asleep today at lunch. I wake him up anyway and push him to nurse. He eats a little, but decides he'd rather watch his teachers as they sit on the floor with the other babies and sing song after song. Reluctantly, I let him join the circle and creep out the door.

I'm so bone-tired I fall asleep within the first five minutes of my massage appointment. It's the best $10 I've ever spent.

I think my milk is drying up. I don't think Noah cares. The center has a confirmed case of strep throat. I use my shiny new office door lock and try in vain to pump a few ounces, staring at Noah's picture and suddenly creeping myself out by imagining a guy hunched over a photo of a naked woman with the same intense concentration for the task at hand.

It's not getting any easier.


I drove to the center tonight, exhausted and feeling just generally kind of weepy and shitty. I'm afraid of crying in front of his teachers again for some reason. I'm just so tired.

When I arrive, the aide tonight is a young girl with Down's Syndrome. The teacher introduces her as a early education student from the local community college who is here for training. I smile too broadly and speak too chirpily -- clearly trying to communicate that I think this is great! I don't have a problem with this at all! I am not judging!


I pack Noah up and she talks to him and tells me how many ounces of formula he drank and how many times she burped him. She's very sweet and well-spoken and coaxes smiles from Noah as I buckle him into his hated, hated carseat.

And now we're home. Hanging out, listening to a CD of lullabies and waiting for Daddy to get home.

I wish I had a nice happy ending for this post. I wish I could tell you that I feel blessed and fulfilled and am a better mother for using daycare and I was able to pump 10 ounces at work today and blah blah blaaaaaaaaaaah. I'm too tired for any epiphanies or insight or heart-tugging treacle.

Right now I'm home with my beautiful, charming and happy little boy on my lap, and he's drooling on my arm and yanking on my hair. I think he just pooped.

I'm so very, very happy right now.




I found you through some blog surfing & was very touched by your post. I have three kids, the third is 1yr today. I nursed the first two for a year, but this one just wanted more & more & I was making less & less. By four months he was on formula. I miss it occasionally, but we have an amazing bond even though I stopped.

Best of luck.


Late post! Oh, Amalah. If your beautiful way of expressing yourself is not any comfort to you by letting out your feelings, it should be! I don't think I know a person on earth who thinks they are doing this kid thing right. And you know what? They are. And so are you.


What an incredibly honest and beautiful post. It's masterful in every way.

I'm a 7-year veteran of parenting messageboards, where one's own choice automatically makes everyone else's choice wrong. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the good, the bad, and the somewhere-in-between.


you made me cry, you big pain in the butt


Great post, Amy. Thanks.


Good Luck with everything, Amalah:) I'm glad you're happy now (then), anyway.
That picture is cool...also, because the camera looks like the bottom of a wine bottle (I was rather confused...until my stupidity became apparent).
On another note, I tried to comment on your last post but Typepad wouldn't let me, so let me say here, thank you for answering my question, thanks to all the lovely people who commented with advice, it was very helpful.:)


Amy, you rock. You fucking rock the party. Thanks for sharing the good and the bad and the ugly. Although that kid of yours? So, frickin' good.


OMG Amy, My heart is going out to you. I bawled my eyes out. Hugs...I hope it gets better.

Nothing But Bonfires

I can see why they call him Handsome Boy. For reals.


I'm sorry Amalah. I stay at home with my daughter (now 2 1/2) and your daycare made me feel guilty too. Do I really need to listen to my music and get things done around the house instead of playing my daughter's music and making sure she is stimulated every minute of the day? Every day I struggle to balance my needs with hers. As someone posted above, there is always mommy / daddy guilt - it takes so many different forms. sigh.


What a brave woman you are.

I don't know what else to say.


Oh gawd, I remember the first time my little girl said "Leesey" (Miss Lisa, the Daycare Lady) when she got hurt instead of saying "Mama". I thought I had died and gone to hell right then.
It hurts, it sucks and it just plain stinks. But then I also remember that 99.9% of the time I dropped her off with her 1/2 formula 1/2 breastmilk bottles she was happy, loved and had a much better day than I did.
That's the point of parenthood right? For your kid to have a better day than you every day of their lives. She's 4 now, it really does get easier I promise.


Dang it all, Amalah, you made me cry!

It will get better, and then worse, and then better, and so on. Mommyhood is damn hard but worth every heartache. Hugs and smooches to your babalah.


I know this is probably all redundant, but I'm sending you a hug from one new mom to another. If it makes you feel any better, my baby peed on me three times today, spit up all over the cashmere sweater I was stupid enough to wear -- twice -- and wouldn't let me put her down so I could eat breakfast until 11:30 am.

Since my kidlet is only 5 weeks old, I've been devouring you blog over and over again for hints as to what to expect. Never doubt that you're a great mom, and that Noah's an incredibly lucky little boy to have you.


Oh, honey. It is not nice not warn tear-prone, pregnant women about this entry.

No, actually, that was very, very beautifully written and thought-provoking. Your child always looks very happy and I (a stranger hundreds of miles away in Central Texas) know you are doing a wonderful job. I have no advice, but I sure hope this gets easier for you.


Oh, honey. It is not nice not to warn tear-prone, pregnant women about this entry.

No, actually, that was very, very beautifully written and thought-provoking. Your child always looks very happy and I (a stranger hundreds of miles away in Central Texas) know you are doing a wonderful job. I have no advice, but I sure hope this gets easier for you.


American maternity leave laws are fucking bullshit.

[I had more to say but that pretty much sums it up.]


I hear you, I've been there too.

Enjoy your weekend with him.


I put all the nice notes about my little angel in her baby book, too. I also put the notes from the day she got into a fight with one of her little friends and the day she pooped through three outfits. She's now twenty-one months old and has never once forgotten that her mama is, indeed, the most fabulous woman in her life.

Don't forget that Noah's happy coos mean that you have the best gift a working mama can ask for: reliable, loving childcare. The little angel started off at a place I hated, and it was so hard to think about her being there. Then she came up on a waiting list for a place she loves, a place with music on Wednesdays and trips to the library for story hour and scads and scads of messy, wet crafts I would probably never do and other little kids who hug and kiss her and make her feel like she's part of someone'e special club even though she doesn't have any brothers or sisters. Noah is learning so much from watching the older babies, but most importantly, he's learning that it's okay to be cared for by someone other than you or Jason. That is a marvelous gift - there would be times, even if you were a SAHM, that you wouldn't be able to be there - travel, an ill relative, a night away for honey-time - and it's so important for a child to learn that they can trust other people to take good care of them and that Mama and Daddy will always come back. My own mother gave me this speech when I first took the little angel to daycare, and it totally changed my perspective. Mind you, it still sucked to leave her, but it's not so much that it gets easier to leave your child to go back to work, it's that it gets easier to be left when you put them down and they go racing off to play with their friends.

I personally think it's easier for a mama to learn to be left when the baby is young than when the child is old enough to be freaked out by it. It's a lesson you both have to learn, and you, lucky girl, are learning it now. You'll be a wise old vet when the other mamas are freaking out at the preschool door.


When I had Mini Man and went back to work I remember feeling guilty about everything. I felt guilty about dumb crap that had nothing whatsoever to do with me. It's a mother thing. You get over it, honestly.


Thank you so much for sharing your life with us, Amy. I learn so much from you, stuff that I can't learn anywhere else, except maybe from personal experience. I don't have any kids yet, but I'm filing all this information in my emotional rolodex so I will be more prepared when the time does come.

I found you through Jason's DCFoodies blog. I found wit and humor and feeling in your writing, so I kept reading, and I enjoy every one of your entries--baby or no baby.


i was just in DC last evening attending a friend's birthday party and thought: hey, amy lives somewhere aroundabouts heres! you know we're only, like, 45 minutes away up here in charm city!

we should have coffee. in...ummm....columbia, md. that's halfway, right? a sort of blog DMZ of sorts? heh.


I'm so sorry this is so hard.
Beautifully written, though.


Hi Amy,
I just wanted to say two things
1)damn the poopy boobs. I have a set too. Hit I size by the end of my pregnancy. Kept joking that I could feed a whole starving nation. The most I've EVER gotten out of them was 10.5oz in a day. And that's with a Hostpital grade pump and much squeezing.
I console myself with the fact that 4oz a day is enough for them to get all the nutrients necessary. I pump 2 or 3 times a day, average 7-8 oz and pray that it's easier next time around.
It takes me over 2 hours of pumping a day to get that. Clara gave up on the breast itself at about 2 months.
Her incredibly chubby thighs and infectious giggle make up for it.
2) She went to daycare at 3 months. I cried forever. I tried the noon visit until I realized that it hurt me more than helped her.
She LOVES daycare. So much so that now, if I achieve my dream of not working next year, I will still send her two days a week. She gets there in the morning and lights up. She loves her 'friends' and her caregivers. Her joy makes up for how much I miss her during the day. She is an incredibly social person and alone I can't give her the people/kid contact she craves.
It doesn't get easier, but seeing how they love it makes it bearable.
Spending quality time with them outside of daycare helps too.
All that to say. Hang in there. It'll be less painful soon. You are a FANTASTIC mom and Noa will always love you best.


Hi there, I'm just a lurker who wanted to come out of the closet (?) to say my heart hurts for you!! I DO hope it gets better, I really really do.


I just want to say, I know the feeling. Mine is almost 4 years old, & though I don't like leaving her, I do. Ugh.

The first day at daycare, I bawled like a baby. In front of everyone. Just couldn't help it. So I know how it feels. Just remember though, when he's about 2, you'll be glad to drop him off!!

It honestly took me about 6 months to get over the whole daycare thing. For my daughter, only a week or so, and she was fine. Go figure.

Anyway, thanks for such an open, honest post. Many people just think returning to work is great, you drop off the kid, then go get it, go home, etc. But really, there's more emotional stuff to it all. Thanks for being so real with everyone, and sharing your story.


I know that you probably won't even notice this among the tons of comments you have...but I just wanted to thank you.

Because that is how I feel right now and its nice to know that I'm not alone.

Today I am all weepy and I miss my babies and I hate working, but I must.


Amalah, if you check your blog comments this morning, please keep me in your prayers. I have to go have an ultrasound this morning. The dr.'s think I may be having a miscarriage. I am very very scared. :(


Oh, you poor sweetie! I'm not going to blather on about breastmilk and formula, but I just want to say that you SO were not starving him! If he was hungry he'd have been wanting to nurse more often, yk?

You're doing great - hang in there!


Ohh sweetie. I promise it will get easier. I still have some bad days when I drop J off in the morning and she is almost 3. It gets better but there will always be a little doubt that you should be home!

Where in Maryland are you? I am from MD too!


So sad but so well written! And killer cute baby! But why is there any moment where anyone would pretend that putting a 3 month old (12 week old!) baby in daycare (with strangers!) makes us better mothers??? It's a horrible choice to have to make and there's no getting around it! Work should provide daycare to working moms... or at least that's what I'm still pushing for!

Heather B.

My mom just informed me that she didn't cry or tear up at all when she left me at daycare, which made me feel awesome. And now she won't even allow me back in the house for more than 6 days, so don't feel guilty, be happy that you're a nice mom who cares.


Just sending out some positive energy to help shore up your supply. I know how hard it is and I feel for you.


Please don't slap down the commenter who suggested PPD. We didn't realize until after I had fought through it on my own (all three times) that I even had PPD, and the knowledge that I could have turned back into my own self instead of the shell of a mom that I was made me feel so guilty. I though it was just the normal "baby blues" but it was worse- I didn't try to harm the children or anything like that, but I realized in retrospect that I could have, I should have, picked up on the fact that I needed to take care of me in order to be the best mom I could be. I still feel awful about it now, and my children are 7, almost 5, and almost 3.

I won't lie and say it all gets better, because each stage brings a new set of challenges. Every stage brings a new set of joys, too. Hold onto that, and do what you need to do to get through the days that seem bleak.


Amy - It is eerie to read your beautiful words, as our kids are 6 months apart and we have had such parallel experiences. It does get better, but unfortunately, like everything with the first kid, you don't know that until it happens - and there will be a new crisis to obsess over! Re: the breastfeeding/formula thing - my $0.02 (which are worth exactly that) is to consider keeping the morning and evening feedings going as long as you can, and supplement during the day.

And here is the thing - once he starts on solids (in a matter of weeks!) - that will become your new food obsession. How much to feed him? Why are there no rules on those little jars? Is it okay to give him two starchy things in one meal? Does he care that all courses are the same color? But it is so much fun, so interactive and so engaging that I realized I spent a lot of psychic energy on the breastfeeding thing - and that real food (especially for a foodie!) is much more of a bonding experience. I know this is hollow now, but with my limited perspective I would take back the many hours I spent worrying about supply, meager pumping output, etc. and take a big nap. : )

He is a beautiful kid - and you are doing such a good job at something that is incredibly hard.

We didn't have daycare for the past two weeks, and although I was where you are now 6 months ago, I have to tell you how thrilled Aidan was (and I secretly was myself, although sad too) to drop him off this morning. And despite how much he enjoys it there, he really does know who is parents are, and that they are the important fokls that keep him in onesies and pureed squash. He really does.


I was almost in tears this morning when I dropped my little one off at daycare and we've been doing this for 4 1/2 months now. I would give almost anything to be able to stay home with him. Some days it is better than others, but after a 2 week break from day care over Christmas, it has been really hard for me. He doesn't seem to mind so much though. Hang in there!


Just wanted to say I'm sorry you are having to go through this and send some big hugs your way. It will get easier but it takes time. It sounds like the center he's at is a really good one and you made a right choice sending him there especially when you can walk in and find them interacting with him. It sounds like with his smiles that he enjoys it there as well (not like you want to hear that!) Your post is a replica of how I was when my daughter was born. I felt the exact same feelings as most of us mom's do sending our kiddos off. After my 2nd was born we decided I should stay home but I wanted the kids to still interact with other kids so I started a home daycare so I can tell you now, even though they like hangin out with another person all day, there's no one better than momma. He's so young, he probably won't act thrilled when you arrive right now but he will as he gets older and if he doesn't, take it like a grain of salt. Most of the kids that I watch, when they don't want to go home, it's because of a toy they don't have at home or something to that effect. Again Big Hugs.


You people are all so wonderful. You've written everything I want to say to amalah. I'm teared up and smiling all at the same time.

The only thing I can think to say is that if you feed a kid too much carrots and sweet potatoes, they do turn orange. Now THAT should be a warning label on baby food.

(LotionBarBunny, I'm thinking of you, btw. Hope those doctors are wrong.)


Like I can say anything that hasn't already been said...

I thank you for your honesty. I am so sick of moms who won't admit to having a hard time and make everyone else feel like shit for not being perfect and totally under control at all times.


I hope it gets easier. In all fairness, it sounds like the ladies at the day care are doing a great job though. I think it's awesome that they're always singing songs to them and playing music. Sounds like they're really involved.

As far as Noah not being freaked out about being there, I see that as him being comfortable because he knows you'd never leave him in a scary place.

((HUGS)) And Happy De-Lurking Week!


I don't want to take up space Amalah...but please tell your readers thank you for their support. They came to my blog and I appreciated all the supportive comments.

I unfortunately, lost the baby. :( I am very heartbroken and devastated. Since I was 3 months, I need to have surgery tomorrow morning.

Cherish that little Noah and give him lots of kisses and hugs.


I should've learned my lesson by now. Do not read your blog from work.
Tears. Mass tears. And I'm cursing my little soft-hearted sappy heart.



Thanks for being so honest. I am sitting here at my computer crying. My husband is upstairs trying to feed my 6 week old a bottle [for the first time]. I am sitting here experiencing guilt b/c I am not feeding him. We are women and we can't understand why our hormones make us do and feel the things they do.

Hang in there - it can only get better!



I cried when I read this. I remember the days I went back to work. I just want to give you a hug and say it will all be ok.

Oh, and Happy National De-Lurking Week!


Amy~ I was in almost exactly your shoes 4 1/2 years ago. Our situations sound eerily similar finance-wise as well. Well, I think you and Jason may be doing a little better than we were. I cringe everytime I see people swearing to you that it gets easier, because for me and a lot of my friends, it really didn't. I clearly remember feeling like a total freak because everyone kept swearing that it got so much easier and it just wasn't for me. I think it comes down to whether you are getting enough personal satisfaction by working to even out how much you are going to miss the baby. Both aspects are really important parts of you -- the employee and the mother. One doesn't dull over time. When I finally decided to stay home for a year or so (the day the JCC called me and told me they had evacuated the entire day care wing because they had had a very serious bomb threat) I found that really not much lifestyle wise changed. My husband's salary very quickly increased to overtake what little I was contributing after daycare and sick time and doctor's co-pays.....I wound up staying home full time. There's good and there's bad. I miss work and working very much. There's a huge part of me that feels very unfufilled and underappreciated. But, the mommy part, that's all filled up. I don't know what to say really, or what I am trying to say. Just that it isn't easy either way.

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