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Archimedes Inside and Out:
Chronicle of a Pregnancy

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Postscript: One Year Old (And Still Kicking My Ass)

Holy shit: Kendall turns one year old on Thursday. Where did the year go? It felt like a long race where the first 80% was hard slogging in the rain lightened by intermittent bursts of surprising sunshine, and the last 20% whooshed by so rapidly that the finish line is almost an anticlimax. I feel so different, but there's no ticker tape parade, no fireworks—it's just another ordinary day.

Looking back on this year, I realize how completely insane I was to have jumped into this motherhood thing without paying more attention to my friends and co-workers with kids. I should have asked tons of questions, visited them in the first few weeks after they got home from the hospital, or offered to baby sit. At least I might have had an inkling of what I was getting myself into.

For example, I might have gotten some insight into how Kendall would completely redefine every aspect of my life. To be fair, maybe it's because I let her. For example, our master bathroom has a big, inviting, sunken tub. So far I've yet to take a solo, Calgonesque bath with aromatherapy and fragrant candles, but I have taken six months of baths in it with Kendall. The tub is full of her tub toys; it is the bathtub she likes best. Her rubber hippo-in-a-boat and floating ducky toys are claim jumpers and they defiantly rule the roost.

Similarly, I carry the baggage of serious personal space issues. I like things just so. But now, anything that isn't nailed down or put away is fair game for Kendall's exploring and rearranging. I recently found one of my bras in her Diaper Genie, my Visa card in her train set. Yet I don't fight it. I can hardly imagine telling her that she could only play with her toys in a playpen by herself so I could cast admiring gazes at my well-composed living room while reading a juicy novel. Nothing doing! Our nicely put-together family room is slowly but surely being taken over by Fisher Price and MegaBlox, and Kendall always demands a playmate.

I let Kendall explore (safely) because I want to encourage her curiosity and learning. I also think that's what a good mom does. Trying to be a good mom is the hardest thing I've ever attempted. I feel so much pressure, mostly from myself. If Kendall isn't developing properly, who is to blame? Mom. There's no excuse, no "I didn't want to make partner anyway" rhetoric, no "my boss/colleague/barista didn't tell me" to hide behind. Nothing could be worse than being a bad mom.

So given that pressure, my lack of knowledge, and my natural inclination to freak out when I think I suck at something, this year has been the proverbial roller coaster ride, except I feel like I'm running up that big hill and sliding down in an ice luge.

The good thing is Kendall is happy. And the experience has given me courage to do things I avoided doing before.

My circle of my friends has always come from either school or work: I never had to venture outside those enclaves, plus I'm not naturally outgoing. It's easy to make friends there, because they are relatively safe environments where you know a decent amount about a person just from their status—it's like they're pre-screened. Once I left those worlds, I found it much harder to expand the circle on my own.

For a few months, I didn't think it was necessary to get Kendall into playgroups. I thought they were overrated— psychologists say that kids aren't social until they're three years old anyway. How wrong those overeducated, glasshoused experts are! Kendall yelps with delight when she sees other kids and runs over to play. Since I had no nearby friends with kids her age, I would have to make friends so she could play and develop properly, so she won't end up a socially demented child and then a serial killer.

My mission then was to find an acceptable child, make friends with the mom, socialize Kendall, and avoid future prison visits. My first few attempts were feeble, but I defend my troubles by noting that the mom pool is not homogenous like school or work.

The moms sipping lattes at Starbucks seemed too standoffish. The moms in Target seemed too harried. So I enrolled Kendall in a play class, hoping to cruise for suitable moms. The first mom I chatted up turned out to be eerily religious, describing herself "kind of like Seventh Day Adventists, but not exactly." What?! I flashed to the "Waco Wackos" headlines from a few years back.

Other moms were too competitive, too mean, too busy, and too weird from spending most of their time alone. God, would I end up like that?! Is it so hard to find a friend?

After a few months of my trolling for mom/kid friends, I found Pam, a normal, cool woman with a son Kendall's age. She hooked me up with her parenting ed coop and I made more friends. I met Renata, another great mom at Borders story time who actually thought it was cute that Kendall climbed on stage trying to grab the book from the poor woman reading. I was on a roll! We set up playdates at the zoo, signed up our kids for the same gym and swim classes. Images of speaking to Kendall on a phone thru at a glass booth on Saturdays started to fade away.

It was difficult for me to troll for Kendall's companions, but in addition to giving her a fun social group it turned out to help me enormously as well. Now I know moms with older kids, and I can call them and ask questions without fear of being referred to Child Services. While I still freak out, I feel like I have things under control. I can sit back and enjoy Kendall's antics rather than agonize over why she's not doing what the development books say she should be doing.

Her personality is joyous, exuberant, and loud. She gained a great deal of confidence when she started walking, around 10 months. She does laps around our Fisher Price family room, around the kitchen, and around me. Kendall loves walking and is so proud of herself, she raises her hands in the air like a winning Mary Lou Retton strutting her stuff. When she's feeling particularly saucy, she plays chase with me, which usually involves me falling over out of breath and Kendall collapsing on top of me in a victorious giggling fit.

Her incessant but cute jabbering is the soundtrack to my day. It sounds like Korean (japchae! Pyongchang! Nymanyam! bibimbap!). She jabbers, waves her arms around and marches around the house, I think commanding her imaginary army to go forth and find toilet paper that Mom forgot to stash away. She can say "daddy," "mama," "teddy," "bubble," and a whole host of other words. To my chagrin, Kendall loves those insipid Teletubbies and screams with delight when they're on. (Actually, she screams "Daddy!" which prompted my husband to go on a diet.)

Kendall does new stuff every day. Today, she crawled up the stairs. All the stairs by herself, when yesterday she couldn't do it at all. The day before, she learned how to walk sideways. And the day before that she learned how to dunk her head underwater in swim class and scream at a new decibel level, with the Greek chorus in my head trilling "Bad mother! Bad mother!" all the way back to the dressing room. And even though I'm tired and usually covered in some gooey mashed vegetable remnants, my heart swells, I'm so ecstatic to see Kendall flourish.

Kendall has completely changed how I prioritize everything that I wonder if I'm the same person I used to be. I never thought something like Kendall learning to drink out of her sippy cup would make me feel like an Olympian. Had anyone predicted it pre-Kendall, I would have ignored them out of disbelief. Lately, I don't even care about our Fisher Price décor because the toys' proximity and Kendall's happiness are more important. I even, ashamedly, enjoy superstores, where you can buy a tankini, a garden hose, spackle and organic tofu, all in one place. Some of the Starbucks here have drive-thrus—a concept worthy of a Nobel Prize, if you ask me.

I don't know what the next year will be like for us, except that it'll be challenging and full of change. I've blocked out the harsh bits of the last year and hopefully the coming highs will be just as joyous. When I'm not freaking out every now and again, Kendall will continue to redefine my conceptions about what's important. I know she'll do it with a toothy smile and a big heart, and I hope my love for her will give me what it takes to be a good mom.

Copyright © 2003 Yumiko Shinoda