The Problem with You: How Pregnancy Hormones Can Turn You Against Yourself and Everyone You Love

The problem with you is that even the most empathetic “you” still filters everything through a very distinct “you” lens. Something about being 38 weeks pregnant has very abruptly shifted my lens from “me” — where everything is comfortable and familiar — to somewhere in between total selfishness and selflessness.

Don’t get me wrong, none of us are totally selfish or totally selfless all the time. Most of us oscillate — and, as one of my favorite writers (Karen Armstrong) talks about, “concern for everybody” is something people strive their whole lives to achieve … and, even then, it’s a practice, not a state of being.

But I’m here to tell you about the problem with me.

Recently, I took part of a day off to get some things around the house back in order. The sink had piled up with dishes. Our house — which is home to three animals and two and a half humans — hadn’t been vacuumed in more than a week, which was about six days overdue.

Meanwhile, Isaiah had been working overtime for a while at a work, meaning he was leaving the house at 6:15 or so in the morning and coming home at a little after 7:30 at night.

When I am working extra hours and Isaiah is picking up the brunt of the housework, working a “real job” is the worse of the two. But when the tables are turned, suddenly I’m envious that he gets to “just go to work” and I have to work and clean the house, which suddenly shifts to be worse (because it’s the one happening to me at the current moment). So the problem with me is that I can selfishly change my entire worldview based on whether or not I have had to stick my hand into the drain of the sink to clear it of god-knows-what in the past 24 hours. And I like to think I’m not that fickle. But I am.

Days earlier, I distinctly remembered dumping a cup of watered-down furniture varnish into a full sink and being so tired, I said out loud — ”I don’t give a flying fuck if it ruins every dish I own. That’s all I can do today.” I walked away from the sink, naively believing two things: First, that I “didn’t care” about my dishes, and second, that the varnish wouldn’t ruin them anyway.

But on this day, while scrubbing the remains of varnish — which totally ruined every dish I own — off of my glasses and nice, grownup plates and things called “serving dishes” I don’t remember accumulating … it was Isaiah’s fault. Why was I doing the dishes at 38 weeks pregnant? Why was I doing anything at 38 weeks pregnant? But that’s the problem with me. I can blame an innocent person I love for things I know are my fault and not bat an eye. And I like to think I’m not that silly. But I am.

While scrubbing varnish remains caused by a past, more stupid and selfish version of me, I got pissed enough to “drop”/throw a cookie sheet that wasn’t making any progress in the varnish removal process into the sink, which shattered two grownup glasses into tiny shards that were now dangerously floating in the sink thanks to a clogged drain.

I took a few steps back, thinking I should probably calm down before continuing to ruin all of my things, the final step of which landed me on a pair of unworn sunglasses I had just rediscovered in a drawer, that promptly sat in a pile of broken plastic bits on the tile. One of our two cats was sitting on the island where the glasses used to be with a smug arm outstretched, looking unapologetic. I was reminded how much I hate cats (I don’t). I especially hate their little litter-filled paws on eating surfaces, so I pushed the cat — Biggie Smalls — off the island with some force and he took down the salt and pepper shakers from Le Creuset that I “had to have” but that never stood upright on their own — a reminder that mo’ money does, indeed, mean mo’ problems. Just as I suspected.

That day, I burned through about 200 disinfecting wipes in the kitchen alone because we were out of paper towels — my environmentally friendly and conscious kick came to an abrupt end when it crossed paths with my love of convenience, as it usually does. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I’m not wasteful. But I am.

I couldn’t bring myself to vacuum the nooks and crannies of the house with heartburn raging, so I cleaned the guest bathroom from top to bottom instead — with another 50 or so disinfecting wipes in a pile on the floor, evidence of how much dust and grime can accumulate in seven days in a house full of animals and people who live hard on their things.

That’s when I decided to clean the toilet, which was mostly clean, with the exception of the base — which always, somehow, gets covered in a composite of human urine and animal hair full of static cling and stickiness, making it impossible to lift off the porcelain. And again, I thought, why am I on my hands and knees doing this at 38 weeks pregnant?

When you’re 38 weeks pregnant, that fact is like a suffix you tack onto everything — I’m walking up the stairs and I’m 38 weeks pregnant, thank you … I’m tired and I’m 38 weeks pregnant … I hadn’t done anything without the excuse of “XX weeks pregnant” in about 28 weeks. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I don’t use excuses to change people’s perception of me or pull trump cards to take some pressure off of myself. But I do.

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Shortly after finishing the bathroom, I sat outside in the sun for a short break where my dog and my mom’s dog (a guest for the past several weeks) were trying to get some well-deserved attention. But didn’t they know that I had just had that sort of day? I didn’t have any extra to give. So I kneed one harder than I should have in the chest when she jumped on my pregnant belly and yelled at the other to get some space — which they totally understood. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I’m collected enough not to lose my temper, especially with defenseless persons or beings that aren’t capable of understanding. But I do.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning, vacuuming, organizing, doing laundry, and resenting my partially domesticated life. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think I can be a feminist and not resent doing necessary housework that just needs to be done whether you’re a man or a woman. But I do.

There’s part of me that believes a feminist can’t ever be caught cleaning the house, especially not pregnant and barefoot, for fear of confirming society’s suspicions of women. And that’s another problem with me. I like to think that I carry the responsibility of managing America’s perception of women square on my shoulders. But I don’t. I’m just not that special.

In the next two weeks, I will bring a tiny human into the world via my lady parts and some days I feel so grown up it’s a little frightening, and others, I worry that I will revert back to some of the childish and selfish parts of me that still have a way of finding their way to the surface despite my best efforts.

The childish and selfish parts of me that will pretend I didn’t see that one of the cats had thrown up until Isaiah got home because I didn’t want to clean it. The parts that call a loaded baked potato my “serving of vegetables” for the day. And the parts that consistently run my car just a smidge above “E” both because I hate getting gas and always secretly believe it’s going to drop back to $1.80 a gallon tomorrow.

The problem with me is that this baby deserves better. And all I can do is try to laugh about days like that one and put them behind me as semi-secret flubs and start over today and tomorrow and the next day.

The problem with me is that I’m always waiting on a sunrise to be the best version of myself. And the problem with you is that I thought all of this was your problem, but it turns out it wasn’t, so you’re actually in the clear. And that’s not even the hormones talking. As you were.

To My Unborn Son: Here’s the Thing About Your Dad

To my unborn son,

If all goes according to plan, you’ll be arriving in a little less than four weeks and I feel compelled in an unfamiliar way to tell you about your dad.

First, I want to say that you always were a totally welcome, wanted baby. That being said, even though we thought we were in control of the plan, we weren’t going to come away from something like embarking on the adventure of parenthood purposefully without struggling with a few concepts. To be perfectly honest, even now, while I eagerly await your arrival, I struggle with the thought of “sharing” your dad.

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And while I hear from mothers who have gone before me that children become the most important thing, I have a hard time imagining a day where I could love someone as much as I love him. So before you enter full-on consciousness and, supposedly, shatter our perceptions of the world (I understand that’s a lot of pressure to put on you at this stage), I want to show you a glimpse of the person I know now.

Right now, your dad is 31. I met him almost 10 years ago now when he sauntered off stage at a karaoke bar, full of youthful arrogance and naivety. I was proud to be served underage in a bar. He had just confidently finished crooning an alternative standard.

That night I noticed something about him that has been confirmed regularly throughout the last 10 years. He has this magnetism, this pull, that can draw people out from behind the masks they wear. It’s a rare quality for someone to enable others to be themselves — to let go of some of those silly social stigmas and be earnest, even if just for a moment. It hasn’t ever really mattered if the person is a stranger or an old friend, your dad could always make anyone feel more comfortable, relax their shoulders, sometimes let go of a belly laugh or two.

I hope by the time you read this, you are already familiar with your dad’s sense of humor. He’s disarming and clever. I hope you see that he lives to make people laugh.

There’s part of me that tries to meditate on the traits from both of us that I hope you absorb and focus on, and there’s part of me that knows you’ll be a whole new person and I don’t get to choose the paths you take (even in the beginning, when it might feel like I have some control). But in those times when I think I am piecing together your future personality, I spend most of the time hoping you “get” more of him than you do of me.

I hope you get his artistic talent — he is quite the painter and his dedication to his work in design has been inspiring to watch. He spent several years as the lead singer of a rock band with his friends before moving to Las Vegas for a year. He has always been willing to try new things.

His sense of adventure is infectious and inspiring to me. I hope you feel the same.

He has very strong feelings about what makes a man a good man. And your dad is a good man. He respects women — and not in that vainly cavalier way that some men thinly veil deep-rooted chauvinism with. I have never wondered whether or not your dad was faithful or honest. And it’s not limited to women. Your dad treats everyone he meets with respect and truly wants the best for the people around him — whether they’re strangers or family.

Because of that empathy, I know your dad will spend your whole life truly fighting to know you. He will want to really see you. And I know he will love you in a way that even thinking about, right now, overwhelms me.

The thing about childhood is that we all start out hopelessly self-centered. Even when you’re old enough to read this, you might still be in one of many often self-destructive “phases” of selfishness. Teenagehood is a tumultuous time that will probably make you a little reckless, hurtful, and reactionary. It’s okay if it does.

But I hope that you try to see him. I hope you don’t get so lost in your world and your perspective that you miss knowing the best person I know.

I don’t know what kind of mom I’ll be, son. By the time you read this, I guess I might be one of those cat lady moms with one of those sweaters that has the kitten playing with the ball of yarn on it … although I guess I hope I managed to stay young at heart.

I know it can be difficult for children to imagine their parents as people with grown-up feelings, and sometimes even harder to imagine them as people full of passion.

But I am wildly in love with your father.

I love him with a volatile serenity that I can’t explain. We work to know each other more and more every day and, under all of the layers I have been fortunate enough to see beneath, I have never seen anything that made me question his goodness.

I can tell you with certainty that your dad is well-meaning. That he will spend the rest of your life as he has spent the whole of his — doing his best. Know that he will never hurt you on purpose. That he approaches everything in his life with good intentions. That in the small batch of occasions that your dad has mistakenly treated people poorly, he has course-corrected quickly and will often even lay on a sword and accept unnecessary blame to take away someone’s pain.

Sometime in the next four weeks, we’ll hold you in our arms for the first time. Just the thought of you brings tears to both of our eyes. We wonder what kind of man you’ll become. We wonder how you’ll treat people. We want you to live your whole life feeling loved and unique. We want you to really know you can be anything and do anything you dream of.

We don’t know you yet, but we remember growing up and we have both said things we wish we hadn’t. And while you can almost always be forgiven for almost anything by the people who love you, we still carry the weight of the wounds we have caused others. And right now, what I see in your dad’s eyes — hope, trust, optimism, and sincerity — I don’t want to watch it dim over time.

I take that — protecting your father’s heart — as one of my primary responsibilities in this life, just like I will work to protect yours.

So, son, if you can, try not to say anything you can’t take back. Try not to be hurtful on purpose. Be good to him. Be gentle. And not just because he deserves it, but because you deserve to really know him.

The Latest in B2B Marketing from The Starr Conspiracy Blog

I am a terrible blogger. Truly. I break all the rules all the time. But I haven’t been doing nothing lately. So I figured I would share a few recent posts from The Starr Conspiracy blog, where I’ve been doing a daily brain dump on B2B marketing.

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3 B2B Marketing Mistakes You Might Have Already Made in 2014

We’re just a few days into a brand new, fresh year. You have a blank marketing slate for 2014. You may have already made a few mistakes on your personal New Year’s resolutions already (don’t feel bad, pie is delicious), but you don’t have to make these marketing mistakes in 2014. Read the full post on The Starr Conspiracy blog.

How to Keep Your Top Talent: The Importance of the eNPS

Two years ago, Fred Reichheld released The Ultimate Question 2.0 — a business book about the concept of theNet Promoter Score and how it can change your business. Here at The Starr Conspiracy, we take Net Promoter Score as a way to measure client and employee satisfaction very seriously. The concept for the NPS was originally suggested by Reichheld in 2003, when he called it, “the one number you need to grow.” Read the full post on The Starr Conspiracy blog.

7 B2B Brands Getting Native Advertising Right

Native advertising has been making big moves in digital advertising, but there is still a lot of confusion around whether or not native ads will be regulated and monitored in the same way. And not all consumers have decided how they feel about the format. Read the full post on The Starr Conspiracy blog.

Why Content Marketing Needs Native Advertising

Native advertising needs great content. Great content needs eyeballs. No matter what, one thing stays the same: Marketing practices are only as good as the marketers who utilize them. It’s true about email marketing — which can either leave consumers feeling valued or abused … it’s true about rich media ads, blogging, etc. Read the full post on The Starr Conspiracy blog.

Confronting the Panicky Truths of Impending Motherhood

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I feel very mortal. I am overwhelmed. Elated.

I feel surreally capable of my body’s ability to deliver my son. And yet I haven’t slept in three days because, at the same time, I know I will panic and want to turn back.

I know I will feel out of control — or, at least, that it is one of two equally possible routes I can take.

One, proud and confident, I will give birth standing up, looking like Medicine Woman, and I will grab by son from beneath me to hold him up in the air like Simba in The Lion King. The other, hysterical and afraid, I will scream, “I can’t do this” while my child enters the world and instantly judges me for my weakness with his shifty, baby eyes.

I have never leaned into the gravity of anything. Throughout my life, I have been found mocking the very ground every meaningful moment stood on. I am the type to spit out a spurt of laughter at a funeral or undermine the weight of days like my wedding or college graduation with a tacky joke or two.

But I can’t run from the weight of this.

This is unmistakably real. Now, 32 weeks in the oven, my son kicks and squirms against my organs and the front of my belly for several hours of every day. With each movement, I picture my husband holding an infant — I have never had a doubt that he will be a near-perfect father. I think of little drawings in crayon, taking a toddler to the zoo, and I have the most vivid image of the tiniest hand wrapping itself around my forefinger and giving its first squeeze.

And at other times, I can be reminded of the triviality of procreation — as mammals. It isn’t just the few newly sprouted, sporadic hairs popping up in unexpected places from the hormones — I can really see myself as a talking monkey. It feels animalistically necessary to have a child.

I am very aware of my total lack of choice in the whole matter at times. And others, it feels profoundly evolved to think of having a child, to open yourself up to that kind of purpose.

But selfishly, I spend a lot of time thinking that I need to be thought of as brave after this is all over. I need my son to hear a certain kind of story about me. It feels a bit manipulative, in a way, to purposely try to react or create a story based on how you want to be perceived. But I have spent my whole life to this point never really caring what another person has thought of me. I have been known to callously snap at close friends sometimes. I am capable of being rather classless at others. I have never really cared if people thought I was foolish.

But I do care about what my son will think of me. I care what my husband will see in me — what kind of person will I be while experiencing the worst pain I have ever encountered?

Will I reveal some ugly truth about myself? Will I be weak? Will my son know I spent months being afraid of his arrival? What will it feel like the first time my son sees a less-than-admirable quality in me?

And if we don’t try to aim to be the best versions of ourselves, how we can be expected to get anywhere close? If we aren’t willing to say we feel brave even when we feel scared, how are we ever meant to learn to embrace one feeling over another? Can’t a human choose what type of person they want to be, even if, at first, it starts with an optimistic lie?

So I started weeks ago, saying to myself out loud, “You are brave. You are well and will be well.”

And then I barely believed it. But as we get closer, it’s starting to sound possible.

Feed Your Brain: Inequality for All

I am on a documentary kick. About once per year, I go through a phase where all I can watch is documentaries. According to my “recently watched” lists on all of the different services, I have watched more than 30 documentaries in the last month. You guys. That’s sick. I feel the need to sincerely apologize to the people in my life who are getting recently absorbed stats spit up all over them all day. It’s a disease. I’m trying to fix it.

In the meantime, though, Inequality for All is a documentary that came out, in theaters, last year. It stars former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and his research on wealth inequality in America. Check out the trailer below.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. Reich is a totally charming, affable, and credible narrator and he does a beautiful job of weaving his personal story into the bigger picture of income inequality.

If you know there’s no way you’re going to watch the full documentary, check out this short video on the same topic.

And if you’re feelin’ up to it, check out the inequality.is and interact with the site to see how much you know about income equality in America today.

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Feed your brain!

Feed Your Brain: Rupert Murdoch and the War on Journalism

My family is really into Fox News. They quote Fox News opinion-based commentators as though they’re legitimate journalists or held to some kind of respectable journalistic standard. While Fox News gets to tout the brilliant slogan of “Fair & Balanced” (a bold, but completely unsubstantiated claim), the average American forgets that the Fairness Doctrine doesn’t exist anymore … and that none of the news networks are legally required to provide fair and balanced news anymore.

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That requires American newswatchers to be extra diligent … and to take the responsibility of their own education and awareness into their own hands.

If you have Netflix, you can watch Outfoxed on Netflix Instant, or, you can watch it below on Vimeo. The documentary is from 2004. It’s certainly not new. But if you’re like me, and you missed it, but feel outraged by the fact that Fox News gets to call itself a news network … you might want to give it a shot.

From Bill O’Reilly’s irrational behavior in telling almost every liberal representative on his show to, “Shut up!” to the tonal change of news coverage from Clinton to George W. Bush and again when President Obama took office to the persistent fear-mongering that the “news network” promotes in its viewers and the “us versus them” mentality that offers an “answer” to that fear … Outfoxed gives you a pretty revealing glimpse behind the scenes of the Fox News of 2004, at least, and the principles on which the network was founded.

I highly recommend it.

Feed your brain with Outfoxed on Netflix or Vimeo. Enjoy!

Feed Your Brain: Karen Armstrong and Compassion

This TED Talk from historian and writer Karen Armstrong was back in 2008 and she won a prize for her contribution that year, so, chances are, if you are into TED Talks, you’ve seen this one. But just on the off chance that you missed it, check out this video from Karen Armstrong about restoring the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine and building a Charter for Compassion.

I grew up reading and listening to Karen Armstrong’s voice in her books on tape as she was one of my mom’s favorite religious authors when I was in middle and high school. She has written a ton of books, I recommend starting with these three if you haven’t read anything of hers yet:

Feed your brain with Karen Armstrong and the topic of compassion. Enjoy.

Maternity Leave in America: You’re Doing it Wrong

My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in April. We’ve been going insane for information, nom-nomming everything the web has to offer for expecting parents. Do not do this. It’s mostly horror stories and assholes out there in the world wide web for pregnant ladies. It feels a little bit like the real-life version of the horribly good Tales from the Crypt episode “Carrion Death” — but the desert is made up of your own feelings of inadequacy and the vulture is the cumulative mass of judgy moms who are projecting theirs all over you.

It’s great. I totally recommend it. The episode … not the whole … isolating internet wasteland thing.

Something sparked my interest enough to research parental leave policies around the globe. Boy, was ‘Merica’s face red! Sheesh. As one of only a handful of countries that don’t require a single day of paid maternity leave by employers, I would say ‘Merica has reason to be embarrassed.

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Take a look at a few countries we are WAY behind when it comes to parental rights:

  • China — 98 day minimum maternal leave with 100% pay
  • Afghanistan — 90 day minimum maternal leave with 100% pay
  • Saudi Arabia — 70 day minimum maternal leave with 50% or 100% pay (depending on the number of children you have)
  • Finland — 105 days minimum maternal leave with 158 additional days to share between mother and father (or in shifts) with 80% pay.
  • Russia — 140 days minimum maternal leave with 100% pay

Let’s keep that in mind … we’ll come back to that.

Meanwhile, in other news, we went from having a nationally incarcerated population of 500,000 in 1980 to 2,500,000 in 2006. 

We’re concerned and preoccupied enough with the privatization of prison and the so-called “war on drugs” that we’re not considering the impact of parental proximity in your first days on earth?

But hey, if I become that 1 American in 31 that ends up behind bars, I can always take Baby Boy Maldonado with me, right?

It’s starting to feel like we’re bringing a child into the Rome of the new world … in a country with a lot of arrogance about our policies being the only way to do anything and not a lot of proven prosperity to back it up. We boldly say “social engineering doesn’t work” and that freedom of choice and lower taxes are the only way to equal opportunity.

With 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners, are we really comfortable saying social engineering doesn’t work and that a disproportionate number of our citizens just make terrible choices with all this freedom? Do we really think our citizens are just morally inferior to those of other countries? This isn’t Australia … just kidding.

I’m lucky to work for an employer that promotes parental leave and work-life balance. But the government is supposed to protect and defend the rights of all of its citizens … not just from external threats, but internal threats of greed and short-sightedness that leave people’s lives as collateral damage.

We’re the only first world country without a single day of mandated maternity leave. Here, we have a great example of what the free market will do without regulation, as well. When only 11% of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave, it’s clear that the free market is doing what the free market does best — looking out for itself.

And are the companies offering paid parental leave those that routinely enable their workers to operate in dire financial circumstances — or are they mostly companies that offer fair pay and benefits all the time? What about all of the women who can’t afford to take unpaid leave? Those children don’t deserve to be breastfed? They don’t deserve contact with their mothers and/or fathers in their first months on earth like all of the other privileged babies? Eh, you’re right. It’s probably their own fault for expecting big government to look out for them … silly babies.

This isn’t about crime and choices. It’s about greed, the privatization of prison and the “Great Prison Filling” of the last 30 years with racially and economically-driven motivators like the “war on drugs” and other small time offenses, leading to a cycle of unemployment, welfare, the inability to provide for one’s family, back to more petty crime, to more prison time, to more unemployment, more welfare … and eventually to higher taxes to support a continuously crippled segment of the population that we put there with the “American dream” … in prison, out of the home when their children are born, on welfare, out of school …

I know I am not the first pregnant lady who is suddenly outraged at the lack of paid parental leave in America. And I know it’s easy to forget how wrong it is if you’re far removed from the situation on either side. And I know parental leave isn’t what fills the prisons. But I am saying that I am one of the lucky 11% with access to paid parental leave and I am already starting to see how the classes are divided at birth like the fucking Hunger Games.

Babies are home alone and the prisons are full. We’re doing it wrong.

Instagram for Brands: Beyond Selfies, Food Porn, and Cats

Thanks to everyone for the support leading up to my first speaking “gig” at Dallas Digital Summit. I was lucky enough to speak with David Favero and Flip Croft Caderao on the visual revolution of social media — using Pinterest and Instagram. Here are my slides — I’ll catch you up on how it went, but I will tell you, I met the voice of Siri — Susan Bennett — and geeked out.

Woohoo! Instagrammers unite. Just wanted to share the slides for now, but this week, I’ll share some of the tips and some more examples to follow up. Thanks again for the support!

Today at Dallas Digital Summit

Dudes. Today, I’m speaking at Dallas Digital Summit today on Instagram and the visual revolution of social media. I will be posting my slides here after today, but in the meantime, you can get connected with the Dallas Digital Summit by following them on Twitter @DallasDigitalS or the hashtag at #DDSUM13.

Here’s a lineup of some speakers I’m excited to catch:

  • Steve Wozniak — Co-Founder, Apple Computer
  • Randi Zuckerberg — Founder and CEO, Zuckerberg Media
  • David Shing — Digital Prophet, AOL
  • Susan Bennett — The voice of Siri
  • Eve Mayer — CEO, Social Media Delivered

And here’s my blurb from the site — is this what it’s all about? I joked with my coworkers about the fact that lining up a speaking gig was one of two New Year’s Resolutions I was worried about not accomplishing, but you know what wasn’t on my list at all? A baby. So I’ll swap the baby for the other thing and try to forget the fact that I planned further ahead to talk for 40 minutes in front of people than I did to bring a new soul into the universe. Nice.

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Well, wish me luck!