Mommyhood: The Sweet & Lowdown


Never in all my years of infertility did I comprehend how much richer my life would be with a child.

Each day brings a new lesson not only about the development of this human being I created, carried and birthed taking her from helpless being to self-sufficient adult, but also about myself.

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My mom, who raise four children of her own, told me right after Dagny was born that having a baby would bring up all my own issues. My childhood, my subconscious fears, dreams and desires.

Mom knows best.

Something I learned about myself in these eight months – that I could be very happy making someone else the center of my world.

It’s not a lesson you’ll learn easily. A fellow mommy friend told me once, rather openly and bitterly, that I better enjoy my life now before it becomes “all about someone else.”

The transition from single girl to married woman seemed a larger leap than married woman to married mommy. Perhaps it’s all that getting used to sharing living quarters with a man (I never co-habitated).

In each new experience – from eating her first piece of banana to sprouting her first perfect tooth – makes me feel reborn.

But it’s not all roses.

I’m tired. All the time. I feel so drained at the end of my days that I sometimes fall asleep on the couch – a habit I detest.

I’m growing rather indifferent to her cries and find myself distinguishing between “real” cries and “it-can-wait-til-I-brush-my-teeth” cries.

My body’s become a beat up vessel to carry me around the world. Working out used to give me a mental break and now, when I do go, the time flies as I tick off my many chores back at home.

Work’s been a main thrust of my life. A job well done gives me immense satisfaction.

But that takes a back seat more often than I would like. Yet I know the more I work, the better her lifestyle will be growing up.

But what’s more important? More money or more time with mommy?

As I tried to sneak out for a business meeting this week, I heard her make a noise of greeting from the living room.

I paused in time to see her crawl around the corner of the couch, see me and light up like the Fourth of July as if to say: “See what I’m doing?”

Her chubby, wobbly hands marched forward, her knees kept up making careful advances. I stood still, making her meet me in the kitchen and when she did, she grabbed my shoe, pulled herself up and reached for me.

My eyes welled up with pride. I bent down to meet her excited little face, kiss her soft round cheek and hug her.

“Oh, little Bird! Look what you did!” She giggled and hugged my neck, absolutely tickled with her big accomplishment.

It’s a moment too beautiful for words – one worth every struggle.

A BlogHer’12 State of Mind


Before I graduated college, before I moved to California, before 9/11, I visited the Big Apple with twinkly little stars in my eyes standing so small among the smattering of skyscrapers like a forest of metal and glass.

The life that lay out before me to present day included severe road bumps, including getting thrown from my seven-year journalism career and regrouping to work another seven years in communications for elected officials.

As they say, all that’s prolog to the moment I surfaced from the subway 14 years older with a couple white hairs, a second career in politics under my belt, working a start-up pr shop with a husband of 7 years and a newborn baby in tow heading to my second BlogHer convention.

[P.S. I was born on 7/17/77. I know, creepers]

Last year, I spoke about illegal immigration as the token Republican knowing next to nothing about BlogHer. This year, I spoke about women in politics again, as the token Reep, but this time I knew all too well the exciting publishing network now as one of its syndicated contributing editor.

After running around doing some basic sightseeing around Midtown, we checked into the Shoreham Hotel with a couple hours to spare before my speaker orientation where I met the fabulous Heather Barmore, our moderator, and Councilwoman Lea Webb.

Afterward, I had an hour to burn before my next feeding with Baby Bird so I zipped through the multi-level, multi-hall expo to pick up piles of swag and meet lots of fun brands.

The next morning, I awoke with a start from the sound of my cell ringing from Nicole at genConnect confirming our interview in 5 MINUTES! Quickly, we rescheduled so I could wash the long, thrashy night beside Dagny off and collected my thoughts from my notes and soundbites scribbled down the day before.

Interview done. Just so my clients don’t think I’m always cool under pressure, I also always think afterward what I wanted to say but forgot. The white hot lights can distract you.

Thinking I would quickly jump in line for the Martha Stewart keynote was ultra silly. The estimated attendance of 4,000 actually jumped to more than 5,000 at last tally and you can tell by this room shot when she talked (rockin’ some killer orange platform wedges, I might add).

Once her chat concluded, I quickly ran back to the hotel for a little time with the fam before returning to knock out my panel.

Here’s the thing about talking politics at BlogHer… some people just don’t care.

In fact, President Obama’s opening address at BlogHer’12 wasn’t 100% adored. Standing in several lines, I heard from bloggers who felt it was overbearing to have politics thrown in their faces.

I know how much I and many in my circles eat, sleep and breath all things political, but it’s really not that interesting in the grand scheme of things for the average woman blogger.

So, I braced myself for a less than stellar attendance despite having Obama National Operation Vote Director Buffy Wicks on my panel.

So, imagine our collective relief when our little panel drew a heck of crowd asking about everything from how to handle the work-life balance to getting a campaign up and running.

You can see from the healthy Tweetstream #BH12Govt101 that we enjoyed some playful, as well as instructive discussion on the role of women in politics.

One of the remarks that struck me hard: one woman considered running for school board but feared controversial board votes would incite retaliation from teachers on her kids. Eek.

In my experience, I’ve never heard of such a thing. I recently met with a male school board candidate and all he worried about was winning.

Throughout history, women have made up just 2.2 percent of Congress – that’s House and Senate.

My takeaway: we do it to ourselves. We sit on the sidelines, we watch the men run the world while we make 80 percent of the household purchasing decisions and keep America’s families running.

In other words, we live with the decisions that impact our lives too afraid to take a stand even when it might do our kids some good. Or as my new BFF Lea said…

Despite that worrisome reoccurring theme both in my and the next day’s panel with Courtney Johnson, Romney’s Deputy Coalitions Director for Women for Romney, I walked away from the conference feeling that perhaps we inspired a few to get involved in their communities.

That night, I got to *finally* get some one-on-one time with my fellow BlogHer politicos at the chic and rather historic Flute to discuss our next big adventure at the upcoming 2012 Republican National Convention. [Stay tuned… big ideas and fun coverage on the horizon.]

Walking back to meet up with hubs who was walking the streets of Manhattan with bird, I caught a pretty mid-street shot up Times Square. So glad I finally returned to the city that never sleeps… a little older, a little wiser, a little sexier? Oh ya.

+++ Read the liveblog of our panel, “How Washington Works and How Women in the States Can Make a Difference.”

Follow me @erica_holloway.

Have Baby, Will BlogHer’12


I caught the travel bug in my late teens.

After a lifetime spent going nowhere for holidays or summer breaks, I stamped my first passport for Scotland a week after my 20th birthday and I’ve been going ever since.

I’ve traveled by plane, train and automobile across the country plus some other pretty terrific places, like England, France and Italy.

In all my travels, my parents worried about safety warnings and crime.

My mom didn’t even like my driving into my native Flint to see garage band shows and perform in theater shows. Even after someone jacked my junky ’82 Buick La Sabre, I blew off any and all concerns she and my dad would share.

“There’s bad people in the world, baby,” my dad would say.

But now, I’m packing my bags with onesies and diapers going to New York City via a red-eye tonight for BlogHer’12 with hubs and my delicate, sweet baby girl.

For the first time, I’m worried about hotel bed bugs (thanks Beth), pick pockets, poor weather and Central Park muggers. I mean, one could be lurking there right now waiting to snatch up a really cute baby.

Irrational fears aside, I’m looking forward to raising up a well-traveled kiddo. We’re even trekking out to the Bronx for a day at Yankees Stadium.

Consulting the multitudes of advice on traveling with an infant helped me prepare and I found some good tips on nursing while flying that calmed my nerves.

In fact, I did more preparing for my tiny progeny’s trip than I did considering my own wardrobe (for the first time ever).

Though, I’m far too practical to believe that I have to buy travel baby gear more expensive than the stuff I use everyday – so I’m taking what I have and hope it works out.

Once we get through security, I’ll breathe easier until I remember I’m speaking on Friday afternoon and I’m still trying to collect my thoughts.

Wish us luck!

POLL: Would you be willing to give up some freedoms for more security?


Today’s senseless shooting in Colorado that left at least 12 dead has resurrected the 2nd Amendment debate over gun control.

Some feel more could and should be done to reduce access to weapons while others feel it’s a slippery slope toward less and less freedom.

What say you?

How to use cloth diapers and keep your sanity


Before you think I’m all concerned about the environment or that I’m hyper budget conscience, let me state up front that my reason for using cloth goes beyond those two pretty good reasons.

Last night while Dagny played on my new favorite gift to myself, I stood at the counter in my laundry room in quiet reflection on my day while folding diapers. It stirred a memory of my mom.

“When you kids were off to bed, I would sit with the laundry basket on the couch and fold clothes. It was my quiet time, when I could think about my day with you and be alone with my thoughts.”

So I’m a sentimentalist. Sue me.

But I’m also pragmatic and when I shared my desire to my husband not only to breastfeed until our Baby Bird turned one, but also use cloth diapers – he was entirely supportive.

Yet, like weddings (ladies, you know what I’m saying) the research to make this undertaking happen fell on my very capable shoulders.

If you’re considering cloth diapers for your babies, for whatever reason, then feel free to use what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s all about the diaper pail (or a white 12.2-gallon Hefty trash can with an easy one-touch locking lid). Not one cloth diaper pail on the market got the full cloth-diaper mommy seal of approval – they were all too expensive, too small and too faulty. I have a second trash can on the other side of my changing table with odor-locking bags for wipes and other trash.
  2. It’s really all about the diaper pail liner. Toss aside those fears of pre-soaking diapers in the pail. I scooped up one of the best reviewed liners on the market by Blueberry. It’s said to withstand months of hot washes without the liner cracking which just leaks into your trash can (gross) while being affordable and pretty cute. It fits perfectly and snugly in my Hefty trash can with the elastic drawstring. Just dump the entire load and your bag into the wash. Voila!
  3. Smell. Ya, I know you’re worried about smell and so was I. All the “diaper pail deodorizers” also got terrible reviews from some of the most well-known brands. Then, I found these amazing little Citrus Circle Diaper Pail Deodorizing Discs which comes with a couple doo-hickies to adhere to the inside of the lid. I’ve replaced them every three weeks or so. So cheap, smells great.
  4. Diaper covers or all-in-one insert diapers. It’s all about you. We’ve got a couple of the all-in-ones with the inserts, one of which we plan to use for the beach, and they’re very convenient. But the covers can go through 2-3 diaper changes provided they’re just wet. In either case, you’ll also have to decide buttons or velcro. Again, we have both because baby waistlines don’t necessarily conform to the evenly distributed buttons. Just make sure to reattach that velcro to each other before tossing in the pail – it sticks to prefold diapers like… well, you know. Lots of makers to choose from in the diaper-making world – we stayed local with Baby Frenzy in El Cajon. They offer a 15-percent local discount. All diapers are stitched together by hand at the store and if any of the diapers need repairing, they’ll do it for no extra change.
  5. Prefolds – so cheap, so versatile, so not like disposables. It’s amazing, but you can buy three dozen Gerber prefolded diapers online from Babies ‘R’ Us for $53. You use these with the diaper covers and fold them to your liking. When baby needs a change, just replace with a clean one and drop the used into your pail. We also use ours for burp cloths or lay under her whenever she’s on her back to protect against leaks. Unlike a disposable, you will get a little opening in the back when baby moves around no matter how tight you make the waist. Wet leaks probably annoyed us for two days until we got the hang of it. NOTE: You have no idea the power behind those chemicals in disposables. My first wet and dirty changes with Baby Bird amazed me; I realized how much fluid and waste she really passed. It was a lot more than disposables would lead you to believe. But because of the discomfort, we know when she’s wet right away and there’s less fear of a rash.
  6. Laundry, laundry, laundry. It’s unavoidable. You must wash cloth diapers at least every two days, sooner if you have a dirty diaper in need of a soaking. Here’s where I thought cost would really kill us, especially with a baby-bottom friendly detergent. However, I found this highly rated Charlie’s Laundry Soap that sells 80 washes per container for $12.99 on Amazon – and cloth diaper mommy’s love it. You cannot use softener on diapers because, like towels, it reduces absorbancy and Charlie’s is specially made for this reason. We like Charlie’s so much that we now use it on all our clothes. There’s no smell, the clothes get clean and even with my sensitive skin, I’ve had no breakouts.

Pros: very affordable and eco-friendly.

Consumer Reports estimates that disposables can cost around $2,500 by the time kids are potty-trained. All told, we’ve spent about $250 so far. The only thing we could expect to buy more of that’s aside from other related costs before she’s trained is wipes and deodorizing discs.

Cons: not as convenient and time consuming.

If you don’t have a private laundry room, that could make the washing process a bit more complicated and two working full-time parents probably cringe at the idea of more laundry.

One final thought: Some believe, as my mom does, that a little inconvenience now leads to less inconvenience later.

It’s a controversial debate in the cloth vs disposable world: Do cloth diapers speed up the potty-training process?

Some say yes believing that the discomfort and awareness of being wet or dirty help connect the dots faster for kids.

We’ve all seen how the disposable diaper industry has expanded their lines from diapers to pull-ups and variations therein seemingly to keep kids in some form of their product longer.

After a couple months with cloth, I can tell you that’s a very convincing selling point for parents.

So perhaps the contributing factor of earlier potty training for cloth parents is wanting to be done with the whole diaper scene.

I’m not going to tell you it’s the most magical experience ever or that every parent should stop buying disposables today. Do what’s right for you and your family.

But if you’re interested, for whatever reason, it’s not only possible but can be a very rewarding experience and with just a few tricks of the trade, you can do it and keep your sanity.

Got some cloth diaper tips of your own? Please share your tips or blog posts in the comments below.

WARNING: Cute Baby Pictures May Cause Peeing (Lots of peeing)


I’m a major sucker for cute baby pictures.

My Pinterest account’s been largely created just so I can scope out adorable, wrinkly, chubby-cheeked darlings in all their precious glory.

So, imagine my excitement at dolling up my own little princess for cutsie pics.

About three weeks before my due date, my family photographer Melissa Jacobs began asking if she could shoot our princess.

Melissa’s more than a photographer – like any great photographer, she’s part of the family.

I met Melissa while working for Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. On the professional front: she’s the best. I’ve seen her all over town, from the PRSA Bernays Awards to weddings to elected official press conferences.

I’ve recommended her to clients (and they’ve always been pleased), plus she’s done my professional headshot and some shots of us when I was five months pregnant which we used for our 2011 Christmas cards.

The one below got rave reviews from family and friends:

Right away, I pilfered my Pinterest account for this little magical shot.

In true Melissa form, she responds saying “no problem” and she can’t wait to meet her when she arrives.

What I loved about the above picture: it focuses on the size difference of the baby. Can’t you just “feel” that cute little baby’s soft skin?

I just happened to have a cute stuffed elephant my mom gave me for the nursery this past Christmas.

Here’s Hank all ready for Dagny to come home:

When Baby Bird arrived two weeks ahead of my due date, it threw off our photo session calendar and instead of being two weeks old – she was three weeks on the dot.

I thought those baby photo sites must be nuts for recommending a baby be 10 days old or younger for newborn pictures.

What’s to shoot? All she did was sleep.

Bingo.

All the mommy sites recommended I have her well-fed, calm and be prepared for another soothing feeding.

But our best-laid plans quickly devolved into a comedy of errors made more intense by her screaming bloody-murder.

  • Best lighting caused her to blink angrily.
  • Peaceful visions of a naked baby butt replaced by a screaming, kicking, Army-crawling baby.
  • Sitting up to snuggle with the elephant. No. Laying down with the elephant. Kinda (see below).
  • Peeing. Lots of peeing. Peeing on hubs (he changed his shirt for the family shots), peeing on the nursing glider, peeing on the carpet, nearly peeing on Melissa.
  • Pacifier did not earn it’s name. She would either purse her lips or spit it out like a watermelon seed. The only thing that kind of worked was giving her hubs finger to gnaw on between shots.

After the sitting up pose flopped, Melissa re-assessed.

“Let’s lay her sideways with the elephant.”

Worked in theory (like the rest of the shoot), but she kept throwing her leg up in the air as soon as the camera started clicking and showing the world her pikachu.

Hubs sighed: “I’m failing already.”

Here was the best of the lot (it’s not cropped or touched up):

We finally took the elephant out of the equation and went far more simple.

Once Dagny calmed down and focused on Melissa, some beautiful shots materialized.

Hubs and I originally didn’t plan on being part of any shots and so, we didn’t get gussied up.

But since we were throwing plans out the window, what the heck?

I’m glad we did because she snapped some candid shots of hubs calming Dagny that brought tender little tears to my eyes.

Plus, she captured the three of us in our natural three-weeks-postpartum state: tired, unsure and making lots of mistakes.

I thank God everyday for bringing this priceless creature into my life.

She’s already teaching me how to let go (quite literally).

Our deepest appreciation to our dear (and patient) friend Melissa – she’s a celluloid maven.

Here’s some of my favorites from the day:

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Childless no longer…


A slight and soft creature, a tender 7 pounds in weight, with thick dark hair and an angel kiss on her forehead lay still in the crib beside me.

Hubs matched her exhausted, motionless state in the spare bed of the postpartum room at Naval Medical Center San Diego while I absorbed the moment.

After hours of chaos, it was silent.

A nurse walked in quietly and presented a tray of food. If I could have, I might have lunged at him for what amounted to very bland hospital fair.

I ate greedily adding up the hours in my head of my last meal: about 35. The makers of Jell-O would be wise to get hungry new moms to write their ad copy.

With my tray sufficiently scarfed, I turned my attention to the gentle sleeping face of my new little girl eying every strand of hair, her tiny finger nails, the curve of her mouth knowing all that grew within me.

I laid back in bed trying to rest but it was hard. Everything about her fascinated me.

Just as I was about to drift off, she began to cry in hunger. Hubs hardly stirred as I pulled her crib to me and feebly, awkwardly lifted her out.

Once cradled in my arms, her soft eyes opened and I felt the first of many awesome waves wash over me: I’m her mother, her teacher, her life giver.

We lay embraced for some time before hubs stirred and the spell was broken with the interruptions of nurses and doctors caring for her and me.

Sunday, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day with hubs, my mom and sis, and of course, my Baby Bird.

As I got ready for our celebratory brunch, I thought of a Mother’s Day several years ago when I attended Skyline Church service alone in the midst of our infertility struggles. Countless women filled pews wearing corsages, holding hands with their children, dressed in their Sunday best.

Rev. Jim Garlow began to bless the service with a special prayer for all the women who longed to be mothers and were dealing with infertility. Painful tears streamed from my closed eyes.

The road to motherhood since amounted to as much pain and sorrow as that enormous joy payload in those first precious silent moments alone with Baby Bird.

One day in the midst of my pregnancy, hubs caught me in thought and asked why I was shaking my head to myself.

“Even now, I know that it happened, but I still find it hard to believe.”

He smiled and said: “Everyone keeps saying it’s because we stopped ‘trying.’ But we stopped when we started the foster care process. Maybe it happened because we were finally ready.”

In life, some seeds of happiness just won’t grow no matter what we do.

While they might not be what you expect, life just might surprise you with something (or someone) greater than you ever imagined.

My first postpartum nurse came in to wish our little girl a happy birthday and write a note up on the wipe board for her. She asked how to spell her name and as she began writing with her back to me, she turned around with a confused look.

“Did you make that up?’

In the weeks following our ultrasound, we slogged through the girl’s section of a baby names book several times over. One night in bed while reading “Atlas Shrugged,” hubs was rebuffing my latest name suggestion and I jokingly said gesturing at the book: “How about Dagny?”

He looked it up in the baby name book sitting bedside. Old Norse meaning “rebirth.”

In the months that followed, we “tried it on” to see if it fit and sometimes I wasn’t sure until hubs brought her to me for our first collective snuggle.

She lifted her head, opened her dark and stormy eyes and looked at me.

At 34, my life started anew.

A New Year, A New Life


New Year’s Eve. A night for letting go of the past, hoping for the future and counting the many blessings in life. No year brought so many surprises for me as 2011.

I embraced my role as a foster mom and all that entailed – foster parent classes, ceritifications in water safety, CPR and first-aid, professional and personal referrals, baby-proofing, child-rearing education and re-assessing my professional life to make room for three weekly visits with caseworkers and biological parents along with the court records that each visit required to be filed.

It was an immense undertaking, but we were ready.

Then, we found out just as we were about to cross the last “t” that we were expecting.

One might think it would be an easy shift. A better outcome.

But there’s that lingering desire deep inside transformed by compelling stories that longs to be a foster parent.

In the midst of such confusing emotions, we dealt with new weirdness: unwelcome parenting advice, weight-gain assessments, career pressures and a family torn between wanting to be involved but not knowing the child’s sex.

My growing belly and the active girl inside nevers lets me forget for a moment that I must overcome and ignore all fearful obstacles. My life does not belong to me alone anymore.

There’s as much solace in that notion as anxiety.

I try to take each day as it comes and drown out the doubts as I prepare for my most incredible life achievement: child birth.

On Tuesday, we’ll meet our doula who will be our one constant child birth expert throughout the miraculous experience. The Navy system does not assign you the care provider you’ll deliver with –  you get whoever is on duty.

In life, you get so few opportunities to feel the complete understanding and meaning of life. When this year began, I resigned myself to never having a baby.

I thank God for giving me a chance.

For all the difficulties, confusion and heartbreak, I thank God. How else would I have ever so appreciated this experience as I do?

We only get so many days on Earth; never miss a moment to be present in the good as well as bad times. Each second is a precious lesson, a chance to know yourself and be better.

So long, 2011. Thanks for the curve balls. You kept me on my toes.