Friday, November 15, 2013

Ten things about motherhood that surprised me

Ten things about motherhood that surprised me

(If you are pregnant -- please read!)

There are several things I can think of that I wish I would have known about being a mom. Mostly because I was unprepared for them. Here are just a few. The second baby will be so much easier now that I know the truth ....

  1. I turned into sleep Nazi. I have, more than once, used the reflective darkened screen of my cell phone to look at my baby over my shoulder or arm to see if she is asleep, because I was so afraid to move her and wake her up. I have also actually had violent visions of what I would like to do to the guy outside my door who decided to start up a leaf blower right when my baby finally went down for a nap.
  2. Speaking of sleep, most newborns do not sleep the way the powers that be tell you they should to be "safe." Especially if you are nursing, do your research. The whole anti-co-sleeping and "back to sleep" campaign is mostly for young mothers who smoke and drink and have premature babies. I am not even close to being in that demographic. I never in a million years would have expected I would co-sleep pre-baby, but if I hadn't, neither of us would have gotten any sleep, like AT ALL. I feel sorry for myself looking back at those first couple of weeks trying to get my baby to bed in the way I was told. Both of us were so miserable, but I just didn't know any better. Most moms do not admit to going against these "safe sleep rules" until you tell them what you are doing, and then they say they did it too (this has happened to me five or six times talking to other moms). It's really sad that moms have to be shamed into silence to do what is totally biologically normal for babies and moms to do.
  3. I have spent more time talking about poop - it's color, texture, consistency, frequency, faces and sounds made when it comes out, etc., than I ever imagined.
  4. Having a newborn baby seems to be an invitation for complete strangers (mostly older ladies) to talk to you, and share everything about their former babies and grandbabies. We have actually been held up and late places more than once because of this, or unable to look at a menu and pick a meal because of people talking to us in line. I thought being pregnant in public was bad, but this is much worse! One weird guy in a furniture store actually told me I wasn't holding her right!
  5. # 4 Part Two: I had to learn to ignore most of what older women say. They will tell you to put a hat on a baby or cover a baby's arm up -- in 80 degree weather, when your baby is sweating. They will tell you to give whiskey to your baby to calm her, let her cry because it's "good for her lungs," or give her bottles of water to fill her stomach and stretch out her feedings, etc. Once I was even told my baby would get an ear infection from a slight breeze (again, in warm weather). As a new mom it is easy to feel bad or incompetent when these women tell you what to do. But I've found upon looking these things up that 99.9% of it is just old wives' tales: Outdated, wrong, and most of the time really unsafe information! Trust your instincts and always do your homework.
  6. I have actually come to enjoy breastfeeding now and it's virtually painless - BUT, the first two months it was that toe-curling, sharp-breath type of pain every single time she latched (10-12 times a day). The first week after birth, breastfeeding also causes uterine contractions that, for me, were more painful than the actual childbirth contractions. I remember sitting up in the hospital in the middle of the night breastfeeding, feeling like my whole body was on fire and I could scream. I understand why so many women quit now. All the books say 'if it hurts, you must have an improper latch.' That is BS. Most of the time her latch was fine. You will bleed and scab and suffer, at first. It will get better.
  7. My doctor did not have all the answers. Sometimes he/she is as clueless as you. Raising a baby is largely a matter of theory, advice from people you trust, trial and error, and which methodology you believe in.
  8. The majority of toys, seats, bouncers, etc. that I got at my shower I was unable to use for at least the first two months of my baby's life. I just didn't know that. I never understood how moms would say it was hard to find time to shower, until I had a newborn. She rarely took long, consistent naps, and I had nothing to set her in, except the bassinet, which she hated with a vengeance. Until they get some head/torso control, you will be doing a lot of holding your baby. I learned how to fold laundry, open and eat a banana, and many other tasks one-handed. I waited until my husband got home to shower. And let's just say there will be times you will have to go to the bathroom while holding your baby. It's a learned skill :)
  9. My body was NOT healed in six weeks. I could get into more detail here but I will spare you. Just don't plan on being the same "you" and being able to do the things you did pre-baby, by six weeks.
  10. Maternity leave is not a vacation-like break from work. Don't make any big plans. I made the mistake of thinking I would use the time to learn how to sew. Ha!!! 
  11. To be more clear, cancel your magazine subscriptions. You won't have time to read them.
When I was telling a friend how little time I had to do get things done around the house anymore, she said "that's because you have to do things in 8-minute increments." That was the absolute best way I'd heard anyone describe it. You literally have about 8 minutes every now and then to do the things you need to do.  (with a newborn -when they get older you get longer naps).

Boy did I learn how to time manage those eight minutes! No more lolly-gagging around here : )

Monday, October 14, 2013


My daughter will be 11 weeks old this week.

These past few weeks have been, in a word, crazy. It has been the most shocking, beautiful, and also the most challenging time of my life.

Everything I have endured and achieved thus far in my lifetime does not even compare to what it's like to be a mom to a newborn baby. 

It is literally the hardest thing I've ever done (and the best). People always say it's life-changing, but you can't truly understand what that means unless you are living it.

There are so many blog ideas that have been bouncing around in my head these few sleepless weeks: Breastfeeding tips, things you definitely don't need to buy for a baby, funny moments to remember, etc. Those blogs will come. 

First, I've decided to write about what is weighing heavy on my heart. At least for today.

The reason I say motherhood is beautiful and challenging is because my daughter has had some health problems. These issues are nothing that other babies haven't been through and nothing that can't be fixed with time - she will be fine - but nonetheless they are hard for both her father and I. The gut-wrenching pain of watching your baby suffer, especially when there is nothing you can do but wait out her cries, is indescribable.

It hit me like a wall last night when I was cuddling my sweaty, crying, red-faced child with tears in my own eyes: Being a mother is like wearing your heart outside of your body.

It is, quite honestly, terrifying. 

As parents, you are the only people completely responsible for a helpless human being. Ultimately, you are responsible for their suffering or their happiness, regardless of the cause.

Was I prepared to deal with tough times and sickness and the suffering of my child? Yes. I pondered these things in the decision to have kids. Was I prepared to deal with all of this in the first two months of her life, when I'm still learning to be a parent?

No. Talk about initiation by storm.

There are so many decisions. You often don't have the answers, and you can do all the research you want - but the books, the doctors, and even your parents, all contradict one another on what is best. Often you and your spouse also contradict one another on what you think is best, which doesn't help things. 

At the end, you have to make a decision that you believe is right. You have to follow your biological intuition as a mother. It might piss people off, and it might be wrong, but you have to do something. You will make mistakes and you will learn from them but it will break your heart.

Or, sometimes the answer is to do nothing - there isn't always a fix -  you just have to do all you can to comfort her, and just sweat it out.

I think that mothers have it the worst. Mothers are often the only people that can truly calm their baby.

There is a biological bond that persists ... after all, my daughter has been part of my body for 9+ months. She has known my smell and my heartbeat for much longer than she has been out in the world.

In addition, when breastfeeding, mom is the food source, and basic survival instinct requires that babies be very attached to their food source. They say a baby can smell their mothers milk from 20 feet away. 

I think that sometimes, even if she isn't hungry, it's calming for my daughter just to be near me for that reason. 

On top of all of that, moms usually spend 24 hours a day with their babies on maternity leave. During this time I've become very attuned to what she needs, what works, and what doesn't. She became very used to me being around. It's a wordless and complicated dance that the two of us perform, day in and day out, but we do it pretty well. (I suppose we talk to one another, but it's not normal human conversation!)

All of these things add up to the reason that babies sometimes cry just because they want their moms.

This is a huge responsibility, and one that I wholeheartedly chose and accept and fulfill. I never wanted to be the only one that can calm her, but that is, in most cases, what happened.

There have been times when I've been so tired and frustrated and overwhelmed and I have to remind myself: If not me, then who? I am her mother and this is my job to care for her, even when it's hard. I have to continue to try and do everything I can and keep my cool. It is my responsibility to do so.

But that begs the question, what if something happened to me? If I am gone for a ten minute shower or a half hour run and my baby can get so incredibly worked up and choking on her own tears and sweating, what would happen if I hit my head or got really sick and was gone for hours or even days? What will happen when she is at daycare for hours? Will she cry for hours upon end and wonder why I am not coming to comfort her? 

I find that thought horrifying. 

My heart is so is easily bruised and sensitive to her needs. When she cries, I feel this unstoppable need to intervene and help her. I don't like that feeling, but sometimes I can't fight it. I may insult others when I want to hold her when she is crying, but nonetheless the feeling is there.

The love I feel for this little girl is unlike a love I have ever felt before. I would literally do anything for her. When she hurts, I hurt too. 

I've immersed myself in anything having to do with her, and somehow everything else has become incredibly unimportant. 

The cat, that used to be my baby, is now .... just a cat.

The job that used to drain every passion and challenge me mentally and physically is now ... just a job.

Time, like Salvador Dali's clock, melts away, day after day.

Drama, office gossip, arguments? Forget about it, I don't have the cerebral space for that anymore.

The aches and pains I complained about in previous pregnancy posts? They seem so incredibly minor.

Those easy dinners out on the weekend? I'd rather stay home. She will most likely cry most of the time and it will just be stressful anyway. 

A few months sacrificing dinners out for my baby until she is a little older to handle it - in the big picture of my long life with many years ahead - is really nothing. 

I think about the spare time I had for hobbies, the incessant TV watching and internet surfing. The incredible amount of books and newspapers I used to read. And I don't miss it. I had no idea I wouldn't be able to do any of that for a while - but still, I don't miss it. They will be there for me when she is older.

Did I expect to sacrifice my life in this way, to this degree, for my child? Not exactly. I expected sacrifice. But I didn't and couldn't understand the emotional ramifications and incredible responsibility I would feel in caring for her as she is now, a high-need baby with some health problems.

I would never, in a million years, go back to my life pre-baby.

I love her in an indescribable fashion. Yes, motherhood has rocked my world for now. But it won't be that way forever.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Beautiful baby girl

My baby girl was born August 7, 2013, at around 4 a.m. She was 8 pounds 6 ounces and 20 inches long.

Sorry for the delayed post! In short, the past month has been an incredible whirlwind, and she has kept me very busy. 

When things settle down a bit I'll be writing mommy blogs! More to come :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Diara of a Preggo: Things that I won't miss when I'm a parent

This morning I was laying in bed thinking about the blog post that I haven't gotten to write this past 9+ month journey: The common things that people say when you are pregnant.

Pregnant women get used to the consistency of the same questions that everyone asks: sex, due date, name, etc. Even by strangers. 

But one thing I never got used to were the negative comments from current parents about life with kids. I could write ten blog posts on the negative things people say, but instead I'll focus on one in particular that bothers me, which prompted me to write today.

Especially when you get closer to your due date, parents and other "older and wiser" people just love to talk about how your life will never be the same, how everything is about poop and puke and you will never get any sleep again, and basically how hard it is to be a parent because your life is no longer for you

They talk about how you will never again get to take off and go out to dinner or take vacations or enjoy your life. 

Now I'm sure these people mean well ... they are just trying to help prepare you for parenthood and not meaning to sound as negative as they do, but I always find these comments pecuilar. Typically the people saying these things are people with several kids, so obviously they chose to grow their family regardless of their life getting "so hard" after their first. 

Plus, they see that I'm pregnant and not 15 and unmarried, so obviously I made this choice very purposefully and not without thought on the sacrifices I'd be making. They don't know anything about me or what I want out of my life. 

If I EVER become one of those people who go around telling pregnant women how hard life will soon get, please shoot me in the head! 

But anyway, I digress.

What bothers me about these comments is that I'm 32 years old - soon to be 33. I'm pretty sure my husband and I were literally the oldest people in our birth class. All of our friends have kids. We both have nieces/nephews that we have grown up with in close quarters. I've lived a lot of life so far. We understand there are sacrifices that come with having children. And we have been wanting these "sacrifices" for quite a while. 

I look back at my life pre-pregnancy, and I think about everything I've done -- my travels, my accomplishments, my late crazy drunken nights -- and I've had so many varied and wonderful experiences. I've had so much fun (at times too much) in my 33 years. 

To be honest I am bored with these experiences. I am ready for family, and faith, and selflessness, and the next chapter of my life. God gave me this child and I am ready for a higher purpose.

Sure, I have regrets or unfullfilled wishes from my past - as we all do. 

There are a few places I haven't traveled yet that I'd like to make it to (Ireland, Brazil, Thailand, Australia, west coast wine country, hike some of the Appalachian Trail, maybe the Grand Canyon?)

There are some skills/hobbies I'd like to learn (Karate/Tae Kwon Doe, knitting, writing a book, learning to write HTML, running a 10K)

Professionally, I'd like to network more, present at conferences more, perfect my craft. I'd like to have the time to work on building my resume and advancing my career. I've completely tapped out the position I am in as there is nowhere to advance in my current program. I wish I'd been able to get a more advanced position before baby, but then would I have had a position conducive to having a family? Probably not.

All of these things will obviously have to wait a bit while I'm preparing for baby and on maternity leave - and after, when I'll be working an alternative schedule and focusing on being a mommy.

And I'm okay with that.

I'm lucky to have the opportunity to have a flexible position so that I can work at home three days a week and not send my baby to daycare five days (as my boss has approved). I don't take these things for granted and I do believe everything happens for a reason, and I'm right where I was meant to be for this change in my life. So I'm fine with some things having to wait.

Plus, everyone always says there is no "perfect" time to start a family. 

If you keep waiting for everything to be perfect, that day is just never going to come. I can't really imagine a more perfect time to start my family, though - two years after marrying the love of my life, when we're totally financially secure, etc. etc. 

Looking back, there are a lot of times that would have been much worse for me to start a family. Looking forward, if I had waited any longer I may have missed my fertility window. So now is somewhat "perfect."

I think about the things I've done in my life and the things I've experienced, and I can't complain. Some people don't even come close to having the experiences I've had, just in my adult life. Some of them may have been a little crazy, and not even healthy. But they were learning experiences, and at the time I had a lot of fun. 

Below are just a few snippets if I flashback on my life and the things I've done/experienced:

  • I've always been a huge music lover and I've been to hundreds of rock/musical concerts - outside, inside, national, local. I've followed bands I loved and met and spent time/friendships/relationships with some amazing musical talent. I have some really fond memories of this and will never stop going to concerts and enjoying beautiful music - with my family in tow.
  • I've traveled to some incredible tropical places outside this country: Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Cabo San Lucas, Bora Bora, and I don't even have room here to describe the beaches, the drinks, the excursions, rainforests, scuba diving and snorkeling with sharks and stingrays, the boats, the sight-seeing, the people I met and other beautiful and amazing happenings on these trips.
  • I've also traveled to incredible places inside this country: I'm sure I'm missing some but all over the west: Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah, the Dakotas, Texas. And of course spent lots of time in Florida, the Keys, Sanibel Island, Miami, Kentucky, Nashville, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Virginia, Las Vegas, New York city, Washington DC, Michigan ski resorts and lakes and wineries, lots of time in Chicago etc. And those are just the fun places. I've been fortunate to travel alot.
  • I've had the experience of being so poor I had creditors chasing me and wasn't sure whether my house would be foreclosed on, eating ramen noodles and cheerios for lunch. Being forced to move in with my parents as an adult and start my life over completely. I've also had the experience of being fortunate enough to buy pretty much whatever I want, and right now being fortunate enough to build a beautiful, brand new house. Because of having both of these experiences, I know how to fully appreciate and respect money and instead of buying name brand purses or other ridiculous things women tend to waste their money on, I save what is probably a ridiculous amount of money, just to have the feeling of security which was once lost - and to be able to give my kids that feeling of security.
  • I have a love of learning and enjoyed all of the time I've had to nurture it: I have received a bachelors and masters degrees and a project management certificate, read a thousand plus books, joined and worked for numerous committees and volunteer/philanthropic efforts, and met some of my closest friends and other amazing acquaintances due to these experiences. I have won writing contests and when I was a reporter i had my work published in numerous newspapers and online sites.  In my current position, I am fortunate enough to work with children living in poverty, some of them refugees, getting to know their life experiences, their families, and being amazed almost daily at their strength despite adversity.
  • I have lived "on the wild side" when I was (much) younger - making crazy choices including riding motorcycles everywhere and joining in on biker parties, experimenting with drugs, drinking (too much) into the wee hours of the morning, closing down numerous bars, hanging out with groups of ladies that would go "out" Thursday through Saturday, numerous experiences spending time with "bad boys" who didn't care about anything, etc. etc. I'm left with two tattoos I usually try to cover up and a lot of memories, not all of them good (Including spending a few hours in a jail cell and a protective order and divorce against one of those "bad boys"). I regret a lot of it and I'm so glad to have grown up and removed myself from it all, but at the same time I also met some amazing, good people and had some fun, carefree experiences that I'll never forget (but have no desire to re-live).
  • Just some random things that don't fit anywhere else: I've camped all over the country, climbed the Black Hills and mountains in Arizona, ran numerous 5K races and two triathlons, touched baby tigers and stingrays and sharks and numerous other exotic animals, been "jeeping" up and down sand dunes and mud bogging through rocks in forests in trucks on private property, swam in a rainforest waterfall on an island, almost drowned in a big wave in Mexico, and not too long ago I accidentally dropped a kitchen knife, which stabbed into my foot, leaving me with a permanent scar. :)
  • I have been fortunate enough to have until 33 years old to be able to see myself grow as a person and as an adult -- into the person I really want to be -- spiritually, educationally, and emotionally. I am a completely different person than I was when I was 20, and I'm okay with that. I have  honestly never been in a more emotionally stable, confident, happy, normal, secure state than ever in my life -- I am finally proud of who I am and I don't care what others think of me, and most of all I feel that I'm the woman that God would want me to be -- and that is the absolute best place to be when bringing a child into this world.
The above are the things I can recall in my memory right now - but there are so many more that I'm sure I'm leaving out. So, my very long-winded point is I've definitely lived some life (pre-children).

All of the experiences that I've had with all of the different groups of people from different walks of life have molded me into the person I am today. They've shown me who I want to be and who I don't. They've taught me compassion for all types of people, and color-blindness, and selflessness, and gratitude, and personal responsibility for my life. 

Although there are things I wish I could go back and do over, things I wish I hadn't gotten myself involved in, the good and the bad both have made me who I am today. 

Everything that came before was necessary for me to be who I am - a person who has the capability of being a fantastic mother.

That being said, I see pictures of my friends making sweaty faces in bars on Facebook, and I want to puke. I see pictures of bachlorette parties, and I think: "Thank God I won't be going to any more of those." 

Do I care about not being able to pick up on a whim and go out to dinner or wherever once I have a baby? No, I do not.

Do I care about "missing out" on experiences because I'm "stuck with" the kids at home, or not being able to run wild without responsibilities? No, I do not.

I will value my family like the treasure they are, build a strong relationship with them and give them all the experiences I possibly can in their young lives, rather than running off to have experiences without them. 

And to be honest, I resent parents who do that. I think it's selfish. Having children is a choice -- not everyone can have kids. And your kids are only young for so long.

Sure, after baby there will be the rare time my husband and I may happen to have a babysitter and go out for dinner or to a bar for a drink or two because they have good food or a good band or because our friends happen to be there. I'm not saying I'll never step foot in a bar. 

But I am saying I don't have any real desire to be there, at all. I don't miss being in bars. I feel sorry for friends who feel like, at this age, they still need to be there all the time. There is nothing there for me.  Give me my family and a cup of hot tea and a good book and a nice workout and I have all the endorphins and true happiness I need for an evening.

So my point in this post that has become incredibly lengthy is this: No, I won't miss the life with no strings or all the wild and crazy times. You won't find me wishing I could "get out."

No, I won't feel like I'm "missing out" on all the "fun" being stuck home with my beautiful daughter (OK I know I have not met her, but yes she is already beautiful). 

I will not miss being able to pick up at a moment's notice and leave because a restaurant has a special on 20 oz. beers and 20 cent hot wings. 

I have had those experiences, and then some. Probably too many of them. 

They aren't worth it.

What do I look forward to? Family outings. Family vacations. 

Giving my kids amazing experiences so that they can have an amazing life.

The first time I dip my baby in a pool. Going to church with my kids. I want to learn Tae Kwon Do with my family. I want to hike the Grand Canyon with my children. I want to learn to knit when they have children and I'm retired. I want to take them to every museum, and camp with them, and kayak and canoe and make forts. I want to go sledding in the winter. I want to discover Australia's Great Barrier Reef together, as a family.

Am I being naive to say I will never get sick of my kids or never want any alone time? No, of course not. I know my husband and I will need to do things together as well to nurture our relationship. I know there are times when my kids will be sick of me, as well. I know alone time can be healthy. But it will not be often.

No, my life is no longer for me. I knew that when I got pregnant. 

And I embrace and welcome that. Poop and puke and all.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Diary of a Preggo: 39 Weeks and counting

Yes, that's what I said: I'm 39 weeks pregnant today! I can hardly believe that I have spent almost the last year of my life pregnant, and here I am, at the home stretch.

It's been hard to keep up with much of anything in my life lately, and that includes creative pursuits like blogging. Nonetheless, if my due date is somewhat correct, I only have about a week left of being pregnant -- So I've made myself find the motivation to post tonight.

I would say the end of my pregnancy has been significantly tougher than the woes of the first trimester, but I've realized that in reality they are just different woes. 

I'm not sure I can compare the two. The third tri seems worse now because I'm in it. But if you would have asked me how I felt in the first tri, I would have talked about being absolutely miserable as well. To be honest it was just a different kind of miserable. I was pretty much unprepared for either kind of misery, but they are both tough when waddling your way through them.

So here's what I've been dealing with lately: 

  • Swollen and painful fingers/joints in my fingers (sometimes I can't even make a fist when I wake up)
  • Worsening swelling and pain in my feet/ankles
  • Lack of sleep and worsened fatigue
  • Harder to walk/off balance
  • Complete inability to bend over, almost impossible to tie shoes/put on socks/wash anything lower than my waist in the shower
  • Daily headaches
  • Constant urination that contributes to lack of sleep
  • Worsened sinus congestion (I've been dealing with that my whole pregnancy) 
  • General mental fogginess and lack of memory
  • Weekly doctor's visits (one that caused bleeding from a particularly painful cervical check)
  • Growing out of my maternity clothes/nothing to wear.
  • Shoes don't fit (even flip flops are hard to get on due to swelling)
  • Worsened hormones (urge to cry, get stressed/frustrated easily)
  • Strangely enough, a weird swollen/scratchy throat and larnyx that seems to almost close up when I sleep, causing snoring at night and sometimes even difficulty swallowing during the day. 
  • My body is uncomfortable pretty much all the time - sitting, standing, laying, etc.
So here is a snapshot of my average night: After a couple of hours trying to find a comfortable position in a bed that always seems to be too hot, I finally fall asleep in a fitful, mouth-breathing state, only to wake up approximately 45 minutes later crazy hot with an incredible urge to pee that is painful, like the baby is bouncing her head on my bladder (which she actually is, now that she's engaged head-down). 

I get up and awkwardly roll myself out of bed, usually with an audible groan, because somehow I'm always surprised by how much my feet hurt when they touch the floor (They ache down to the bone, like to the point of limping). So I use the restroom and return to bed, only to repeat the wake/pee cycle every hour or couple of hours. And that is if I don't wake myself up from snoring/lack of breathing or numb hips from laying on my side, before the urge to pee strikes.

That kind of night schedule makes it really hard to get any solid sleep and work the next day, even though I'm only working half days at this point (doctor's orders - but only three days of work left, yay!) It's tough to get through just four hours of work - especially since my feet swell up like watermelons if I sit for longer than a half hour.

And the rest of the symptoms don't help when trying to make it through any day, even without work. Small tasks completely wear me out. Today we went to the grocery store and one more store and I was so exhausted I came home and napped for an hour. 

There is, however, some good news. My sciatica/back pain is completely gone. I've been able to manage that through weekly visits to the chiropractor and exercises. Thank God for that! Next pregnancy I will visit the chiro early on to hopefully prevent that problem.

My husband has been super helpful, cleaning and cooking and taking on a lot of the work around the house. And we've been majorly slowing our lives down, just enjoying one another on the occasional dinner/move night and staying in, cooking and freezing meals for when the baby comes.

Everything is done that needs to be done at this point: We have all the supplies/clothes/diapers, etc. that we need, car seats are installed, maternity leave planned out, all the furniture, strollers, etc., put together. That gives my mind some peace.

It's a waiting game now and believe me, we are watching the clock! I get through each painful day with the hope and joy of finally getting to meet my little girl - a day that should be just around the corner. :)