Sunday, January 27, 2008

Interview with Vicki Glembocki

If you're anything like me, the first year of motherhood was an adjustment -- a big one. And if your baby is colicky (like mine), it's that much more of a shock to the system. In the last year, I kept wishing someone would write a no-holds-barred book about new mommyhood -- the ups and the downs, the pretty and the ugly times. And, how thrilled I was to see that a writer friend of mine, Vicki Glembocki had done just that! Her new book, just hitting bookstore shelves now (so go pick up a copy!), The Second Nine Months is receiving lots of praise for being an honest look at life after pregnancy. And if you've ever read Vicki's work (she contributes to Fit Pregnancy and has a new column in Women's Health) you probably know, and love, her frank, laugh-out-loud, tell-it-like-it-is style. Vicki took time out of her busy book-release schedule to answer a few of my questions:

SJ: Finally, someone is willing to give the dirt on motherhood (the stuff we all go through, but don't really talk about)! For a long time, I thought I was the only new mother on earth who felt that the first several months of babyhood were, um I'll be honest, a NIGHTMARE. From the worry to the sleep deprivation and all the crying in between (both by me and my colicky son), I wondered for a long time if I had ruined my life by having a child. When you were going through the hard stuff with your daughter (who you mentioned was colicky), what got you through?

VG: Honestly, I have no idea. Wine didn't help. My husband didn't help. Oprah didn't help. In retrospect, I like to tell myself that what got me through were those brief moments when I actually felt like I'd done something right--figuring out, for example, that she napped well in a swing (where I then put her, like, 24-7). But I didn't feel that way very often. I felt like time had stopped--that I would forever be sitting on THIS couch in THESE stinky sweatpants with THIS screaming baby refusing to latch on to THIS perpetually exposed boob, for the rest of my entire life. I didn't recognize that this stage would pass, because I didn't know what was a stage and what wasn't, what was normal and what was me sucking at it all. I had no frame of reference. I just assumed that I was the only woman on earth who didn't have the maternal instinct gene, so my daughter and I were, basically, screwed.

SJ: I'm sure there are a million funny, and downright hilarious, stories from the trenches of motherhood in your book, which I can't wait to read. Can you share one with us? Maybe one that wasn't so funny at the time, but now gets you chuckling a bit?

VG: Well, there was the time when I was sitting on that couch, with those boobs hanging out, Blair reclining on the "My Brest Friend" nursing pillow hooked around my waist, me trying to coax her to latch on for the 427th time, when the dog started to bark in the backyard. And he wouldn't stop barking. And his barking was freaking Blair out. And it was freaking me out. And he needed to be stopped. So I stood up, walked over to the sliding glass door to the back porch, threw it open, stepped outside, and find the three men from a tree service who were in my yard working on cutting down my neighbor's tree...and now they were all staring up at me. And Blair. And My Brest Friend. And my boobs.

SJ: What do you think about mothers who claim that their babies are "easy"? Do you think there is such thing as an easy baby (I'm praying I get one someday), or do you think they're fibbing a bit?

VG: I know there are easy babies. My second baby, who is eight months now, is the easiest, most laid-back baby on the planet. During the first couple months, though, she was tough--with the sleeping and the crying and the nursing. But she is an easier baby than Blair was. But that doesn't mean that, if I'd had her first, I wouldn't have had a book to write. No way! Yes, Blair was colicky, but the nightmare of the crying wasn't the entire problem. The problem was the transition into motherhood, the sudden identity shift--"Yesterday? No baby. Today? Baby." I went through a legitimate identity crisis, trying to puzzle out who I was now, what parts of the old me I could mesh with the new"mother" me. These are issues that every new mom can relate to, whether your baby is easy or hard or gassy or pukey. But, at the same time, I do think new moms are afraid to talk about anything they're going through that doesn't jive with the expected "I'm loving every minute of it" line, or the "this baby is the best thing that's ever happened to me," line. I was so terrified that someone would think I was a bad mom, I didn't tell anyone...and THAT was what made me feel so alone. That's why I wrote the book, which is a book I hunted desperately for during those second nine months and couldn't find. Now, someone has said it out loud, someone has told her real story from day one so that other women can know that they aren't the only new moms who think they might be maternal mutants.

SJ: When my son was younger, I used to see those commercials for sleep medications like Lunesta and wished I could just pop a few of those and wake up eight hours later. Yeah right! Do you have any advice for dealing with the horrors of sleep deprivation?

VG: If I had the perfect advice for dealing with the horrors of sleep deprivation, I'd be rich enough to buy every woman reading this a nighttime nanny. That sleep thing? That is the hardest part of it ALL. It's no wonder we feel overwhelmed and like time has stopped and like we want to kill our husbands and our dogs and our mailmen. I can't even make it through breakfast without a good night's sleep, much less months. And months. And months. Until we "cried it out" when Blair was 5.5 months old, she was pretty much waking up every hour, on the hour. And I was back to work. But, after we "cried it out," she slept through the night. And still does. My advice, I think, would be this: don't be afraid to let the baby cry a little. (I can practically hear the attachment- parenting devotees huffing and puffing. Oh. They get sooo mad.)

SJ: What's it like having (gulp) two kids? In particular, what's it like being a successful, productive, and ultra-creative writer while being a mom to two kids? Please tell us it gets easier.

VG: It is so. Much. Easier. Why? Because I know what to expect. I know that "this, too, shall pass." I know that a baby WILL eventually stop crying, a baby WILL sleep through the night, a baby WILL smile and giggle and eat mac-n-cheese. Two has it's own set of challenges, of course, but I'm so much less neurotic this time. I actually enjoyed it. I actually think about having another (do NOT tell my husband this). Working and being a mom is always hard--it was with one, and it is still with two--and I work at home four days a week, with the girls at daycare. These days, I'm really struggling with going off the clock at night, with not checking e-mail until they go to bed, with being entirely present with them. It seems like it should be a no brainer, but it isn't. And, this just goes to show that, even though the second nine months are over, the struggle for balance isn't over. I don't think it'll ever be over.

SJ: Finally, do you have any new projects in the works that we can be looking out for?

VG: I'm writing a monthly column for Women's Health magazine that I'm really psyched about, partly because they let me write about whatever weirdo thing is rattling in my head and, partly because they created an illustration of me to go with the column and the illustrated me is VERY thin and stylish. I love her.


Tami said...

Here's the deal. It too shall pass. Never gets easy.
Just gets different. All those well meaning folks that come up to you and say, "oh, they grow up so fast, he'll soon be running around, driving around etc. Grab them. Take them home and make them babysit while you nap. They are well meaning but misguided. Probably safe to let them babysit. Stages pass but it is hard to imagine life beyond that point in time. Hang in there. Demand naps! For yourself. And remember sleep is a learned activity, the best peditrician told me that when my guys were little. Oh, and if you can't get them to bed on time when they're two you will not be getting them home and in bed on time when they are sixteen. hang in there ;) The book sounds like a fun read. sorry, this got so long...

Anonymous said...

Her book is what I am currently reading during my night feedings (i have a one-month-old) and let's just say it is keeping me sane and happy during the night. Vicki, i don't know you personally but i think you are brave and wonderful for writing this book!

Katie said...

How great to read this post. Two smart, honest women. Vicki sounds like a hoot. I will pick up this book because for this mama it ain't ever easy. Each day, age, stage brings new challenges for me..k