Here’s how to win at motherhood…

Now that I’m settling into my role as mama (or “mamamaaaaaaa” as my baby may or may not intentionally call me) and getting more sleep than I’ve had in the past 8 months, I’ve had a lot more time for rational thinking. I mean, if rational thinking still exists when on a sleep deficit and caring for another individual 24/7, then I’m as rational as it gets right now. Anyway, so a lot of my thinking has been reviewing how I’m caring for my son. Am I doing the right thing? Am I playing the right developmental games? Is he eating enough? Pooping enough? Has he tried enough solids? Endless unanswered questions build as we draw closer and closer to the Year 1 marker.

So all of these accumulate into one big question, “How does one win at motherhood?”

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In the no-win game of self-comparison, I am the star forward. I compare myself to my mom friends, compare T to their babies, and compare myself to what I see other moms “doing” on blogs and Instagram. Some moms have strict schedules that lay out what baby does and when: naps, meals, and playtime are a regimented schedule that repeats daily. Other moms fly by the seat of their pants, and are completely flexible with their day to day activities: babies nap whenever, eat when they want, and play how they want. I think I fall somewhere in between (but is that the right thing to do?). I read apps and books that talk about appropriate age milestones less and less because there is a direct correlation to my worry level when I do. The less T matches the minute by minute developments, the more I freak out—unnecessarily, I might add, he always hits the milestones eventually.

And then there’s the endless conflicting advice. Pump right away to increase milk supply. Don’t pump or else you’ll end up with oversupply and mastitis. Pick them up when they cry. But don’t or else you’ll make them needy. Swaddle baby with a blanket. Don’t have loose blankets in the crib or else they’ll suffocate. Let them play in their crib to adjust to it, but don’t because then it’s associated with play and not sleep. Breastfeed to soothe baby to sleep. Don’t breastfeed to sleep. Let them play alone. Create structured play. Introduce solids at 6 months, but maybe not for fear of allergies. I got conflicting advice from every nurse, doctor, and lactation consultant I asked for months. Even the mom blogs and internet advice is in direct opposition with everyone else.

So, how do you win at motherhood? The short answer is: you don’t. The long answer is that you can’t win at motherhood, not because it is impossible, but because there is no one right way. Motherhood looks like different things to different people. It can even look different on different days. Some days, T gets three meals, three good naps, playtime, and we go run an errand or two. Sometimes just getting through the day means a lot more sitting around, a little extra tv for mom and a little more of the same ole’ toys for T, and wondering when the hell dad is getting home so there is an extra pair of hands on duty.

The bottom line is that we are all just doing the best that we can do. We are being the best moms that we can be. The new moms are figuring out how to mom. The second time around moms are figuring out how to do that, too, because now there’s two tiny humans instead of just one (but the same number of hands to “control” them with). As long as you feed, change, and be attentive to baby’s needs, you’re leagues ahead already. My best advice is don’t worry. I tell myself this often. Say it with me: I am doing just fine. My baby is just fine.

And when it comes to winning, I already feel like I’ve won the jackpot every time T looks at me with those beautiful eyes and smiles that big gummy grin. And you just can’t beat that feeling.

Dealing with postpartum body image

Why do we hate how we look?

Well shit. My shorts I bought during my postpartum months last summer still kind of fit. I really had hoped that when I pulled them on today to deal with this freakishly warm winter they would fall right back down, unassisted. Instead, they stayed on my baby-wide hips where they were supposed to, even though I didn’t want them there.

I’ve lost about half the baby weight, and my body shape is changing again to what I hope is back to something closer of what I used to have. I know in the back of my mind, though, that my body will never be the same again.

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The good news is IDGAF what people think anymore—of me, my parenting style, or how we live our lives. It’s actually incredibly freeing. The bad news is I-Do-GAF what I think, which is disappointing to me. I am working so hard on staying body positive and reminding myself that it is hard work producing a human being from scratch, but when I look in the mirror before a shower I can’t help but poke here or grab a handful there, and feel disappointed in what was left behind after the baby was out. I know, I know, “It takes nine months to gain it, it will take nine months to lose it!” Seeing as how that milestone isn’t that far off, it doesn’t bring me any comfort.

I realize, too, that getting back into shape has been on the absolute back burner for me. I dove headfirst into motherhood (let’s pretend that was a choice at all) and was so excited that nothing else mattered. I was hungrier than ever due to breastfeeding, so eat I did. Fortunately, the calorie burning power of boobie magic meant that I didn’t gain any weight. In fact I lost some without trying. Awesome.

Once I was confident enough to leave the house again, I started going on many afternoon walks during the week. The 40 minutes of silence for my baby and myself kept me sane. I’m sure this helped boost some calorie-burning power, too. Just this week, I went running for the first time. Well, “running.” I tried. Negative: It was really not very far. Positive: I didn’t pee myself.

Now that I’m finding my mommy groove, I have a lot more time to process a wider variety of emotions that I am going through. All of this got me thinking: why do we hate our postpartum body so much?

I believe a lot of it has to do with societal conditioning. Women are trained to think that an adolescent-looking body (but with big boobs, obviously) is what is desirable and beautiful. Narrow hips, zero belly-fat, and stick arms might look great in couture, but is impractical for everyday life. The problem is, we start to believe it about ourselves. I had body issues before, so postpartum body issues are a whole new bucket of crazy.

Women are heavily critiqued before, during, and after pregnancy. It’s insane. Why is every female celebrity lambasted all over the internet and magazines for how much weight she is (or isn’t) gaining during pregnancy. It’s disgusting. Making a baby takes calories, and calories means eating food, plain and simple. What’s even worse is how a woman’s recovery is dissected in the media. It isn’t helpful that A-listers seem to bounce back flawlessly after pushing out a watermelon only a few months before. It also isn’t helpful that they don’t tell you about the battalion of help they had to get them back to a size that fits 1% of the population.

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How did we go from this standard of beauty…

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… to this?

When a woman’s body is actually used for what nature intended, i.e. pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, it is all of a sudden inappropriate, gross, and repugnant. Instead of boobs being hoisted up to an impossible physiological standard, they are now low with new milk tissue.  Side rant: let’s excise this use of the word “saggy” to describe breasts. It is one of the ugliest words in existence and should never be used to describe something so beautiful as a giver of life, a mother of creation, a maker of future generations. I used to think pregnant women were walking freak shows. Now, I see no body form more beautiful.

Our focus should be on having the healthiest body possible; before, during, and after pregnancy. Let’s work together to erase having a standard at all. If you are naturally very lean with tiny boobies, good on ya girl. If you are quite the opposite, that is great, too! And in the middle? Still wonderful. Every shape is beautiful. We need to love ourselves as we come by eating right but not over, exercising, and talking positively about ourselves—whether that’s out loud or in our heads.

I’d like to tell you that I am proud of every extra inch, each heavy and low breast, and the extra inches of skin. I’d like to tell myself that truth, too. But I’d be lying. But you know what, I’m getting there. I focus on what I’m proud of. That belly housed a tiny miracle. Those boobs are feeding another human his sole source of healthy sustenance. These big thighs helped me work full time (and sometimes more) while carrying a baby, placenta, extra blood and fluids, and did it all while walking proudly (okay, maybe waddling proudly there at the end…). I might not be two-piece proud in May when pool season starts, but I’ll at least be one-piece proud. I’m working really hard on being two-piece proud, though.

Reflections on motherhood

It’s the final eve of 2016, and it’s going how I never expected it to go. Instead of drinking my face off at a party with friends, I’m sitting in a rocking chair, holding my precious babe. Instead of turning up at the stroke of midnight when the New Year officially begins, I’m shoving Kleenex up my nose until I look like a tissue walrus, so that I don’t wake up my baby by blowing my stuffy nose. Instead of raging until the 3 am hour, I anxiously watch the clock at 8:45 pm, hoping to get to bed soon and fall asleep fast. No, New Year’s Eve isn’t at all what I had ever seen myself doing. Yet it is the happiest I’ve ever felt when starting a new year, sober and so in love with the life my husband and I created.

Pregnancy and motherhood have been unique challenges. I’ve written about my identity loss during pregnancy, my extreme difficulties breastfeeding, and the isolation and anguish that having a new baby can cause. I’ve also written about how motherhood has made me a better person, and how I wouldn’t change my new life for the world. Every new experience is scary, and every challenge overwhelming until we’re in the thick of it.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve nailed this parenting thing, but at least I feel settled in my new role. I quit my career and found my new calling in helping women just like you.

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An irrational and insane move to everyone but me, I started my blog when Baby T was just a few months old. I had found my calling, and I wasn’t going to waste a second of it. You see, when I was pregnant, I often felt misunderstood and alone. I didn’t love pregnancy, and I felt like a freak because of it. When my baby was born, I wasn’t immediately in love. Deep rooted attachment, yes, but not love. I felt even worse. I often felt judged for my decisions I was making as a mom (no visitors, hypersensitivity to germs, and choosing to breastfeed despite my pain) and once my mom and parents-in-law left, I had never felt so alone.

It took me awhile to find the support I needed in moms’ group and to allow in the support from my friends, and once I did I felt relief. My daily walks were my metaphorical Xanax, and I felt I could go on. Not that I didn’t have really fucking hard days—and nights—but at least I knew I could keep going. Those beautiful baby smiles that were just for me in the mornings and the sweet coos of my little guy weren’t too bad to receive either.

It was all of these challenging experiences that motivated me to write to you. To you, the pregnant woman who is emotionally struggling, and struggling to keep it together. To you, the new mom who can now only find solace in the two minute hot shower (even though you feel guilty as fuck when your baby starts crying when you are only halfway through it). To you, the mom who perseveres or chooses another feeding method when the pain is too much, and your nipples too chafed to go on. To you, the mom who feels like an outcast because her parenting decisions are against the “norm.” To you, the mom of older kids but still doesn’t quite fit in with the Lululemon wearing, Kate-Spade toting tiger moms—okay I have a Kate Spade diaper bag, but I swear I’m not one of them!

I couldn’t find the support when I needed it most, so I want to create the space for you. I want to create a community of bad-ass mama-jamas that can feel the best when they feel themselves. Motherhood is the most joyous, yet hardest, experience I’ve ever had.

It’s not all rainbows and home-made playdough, with pictures of happy, clean faces and tidy houses. It’s on-and-off storms, diaper blowouts, spit-up in hair, and messy houses. Not many moms want to share that side. Maybe because it’s hard to show that side, the side that makes us feel like failures, the side that makes it look like we don’t have it all together. I’m here to tell you it’s okay to not have your shit together—and to be far from it—with mom hair and yoga pants.

Motherhood is more than that. It’s the sleepy newborn smiles in the middle of the night that make it worth it. It’s the first time baby laughs for you. It’s the first time baby sits up all by himself. It’s the first time baby and daddy engage each other in pure love and joy, and your heart melts and your tears of happiness say it all.

If you have no one else to turn to, you have me. You’re not alone. You have the mothers and the mothers before them, doing the same things you are doing, facing the same self-doubt, and celebrating the same triumphs. We are all in this together.

Happy 2017 mama, let’s make this a year of parenting triumph and joy, and kick-ass while doing it.

I never thought I’d regret having my son.

It dawned on me one night when my husband and I were finally able to watch some TV in peace. Although the volume was turned down low so as to not wake the baby, we were silent because we needed to be. We needed to just “be” for a minute. No baby giggling. No baby crying. No bickering about the right way to hold or change the baby. No discussion about baby poop. Nothing. Silence. Finally.

We felt like our old selves for a minute. I looked at my husband and asked, “Do you ever just miss the old days of just being…us?” “Yes,” he answered, more quickly than I had anticipated. But there it was, the unspoken message between us. Confirmation of my own secret shame. In that moment, and often in the dark nights of endless rocking and wishing for sleep, I regretted having my son.

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It’s been a particularly hard fucking month. Baby T hit his sleep regression around Thanksgiving, making it almost 4 weeks of completely broken sleep—some nights worse than when he was a newborn. I now understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I am beyond tired. I am mentally exhausted. I am physically exhausted. I don’t have it in me to be angry at him anymore. I don’t feel anything. I am broken.

Truly, though, T is a beautiful boy. I know all parents say this, but really, he actually is the most handsome baby I’ve ever seen. The days are mostly blissful. Those delightfully chubby cheeks just begging to be eaten up. I don’t even mind getting peed or shit on, he’s that cute. Metaphorically, T saves his biggest shitting on for the midnight hours. He doesn’t sleep. We don’t sleep.

Footsteps echo repeatedly down the hallway. Back and forth. Back and forth. Like a big cat pacing his pitiful enclosure at the zoo. I swear there are treads in the carpet now. My nipples are sore and pink. He is an insatiable pit of need—food, love, and physical contact.

But it’s more than the sleep. It’s everything. I don’t have time for my husband. I don’t have time for myself. I plan my entire day around feeding, changing, and sleep patterns of another human being. I don’t go out. My social life consists mostly of text messages or trolling Facebook until the tendon in my thumb hurts; it’s the only finger readily available while breastfeeding. I don’t paint. I don’t exercise. What’s left of my disintegrating muscle structure is laughable.

The biggest hurdle has been and still is losing myself in motherhood.

At first I rejoiced in my changed status. Motherhood felt like the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

Months later, it’s changed. I’ve changed. I’ve seen how my life has changed. It’s the most drastic thing that has ever happened to me.

Talking to other moms has really helped me from falling of the ledge. Some days I feel like I’m losing my fucking mind. But they do, too. Life is so different. It’s isolating. It’s joyful. It’s lonely. It’s the greatest love. It’s the greatest pain. It’s the most impactful thing that has ever happened to me.

In the end, it’s not my son I regret, but the death of my old life. It’s hard to let go of something—and someone—you’ve been for the last decade. Every behavior and thought pattern changed. Once the immediate and blind bliss of taking care of a newborn wore off, there was a new life staring me in the face. The unknown is scary. The unknown with a child when you’re tired as fuck and feeling about the same level of alone is frightening as all hell.

Now the nights are sometimes improved. Sometimes not. I try to keep in mind that he is still a baby. So early, so small, and still so helpless. He needs me and depends on me. I am his food. I am his comfort. I am his warmth. I am his safety. I am his everything.

Even though the mourning phase for my previous life is just about over, the dawn of my new life breaks. I realize it’s impossible to regret him. I can’t regret him, because he is now my everything, too.

This post was featured on Scary Mommy and can be found here

What to actually expect at your postpartum visit

I arrive at the doctor’s a little late. That’s my mantra these days… “a little late.” The six weeks at home have flown by. It feels like just yesterday a watermelon was tearing out of my vagina. But hey, I can probably carry the car seat and the baby combo to the building and back, I think to myself, it’s not that heavy. What a stupid fucking idea. I finally make it the elevator with a swagger that isn’t out of ego but of struggle, and make it to the front desk sweating. Why the hell didn’t I just use the stroller?

The nurse finally calls me back and I hoist my overloaded diaper bag over my shoulder and schlep the car seat and baby down the hallway to get weighed. Oh joy. Yes please tell me how much baby weight I haven’t lost yet. By the way, this whole breastfeeding-burns-a-ton-of-calories-and-the-weight-just-falls-off is a big scam to conceal the nipple-tearing agony of nursing. But I digress.

The nurse takes me down the winding hallway to an examination room, pulls out a pink paper jacket and a white paper sheet and leaves me with the instructions to strip down to my birthday suit and use the paper products as a deft cover. I carefully undress, peeling away layers of confidence along with the clothing. Not exactly sure what to do, I stand in the middle of the room, swaying a little out of newborn-holding habit, and wait for the doctor.

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Minutes that seemed more like eternities pass. Suddenly, the baby decides he has had enough of his arch-nemesis, the car seat. Wailing ensues. I unstrap him and pick him up. He wants to eat. Of course he fucking does. Still struggling to get the hang of breastfeeding, the thought of doing it in a room without my beloved support pillow leaves me feeling unequipped and inferior. I thoughtfully lay my baby’s blanket on the only chair in the room as a measure of barrier, and sit bare-assed and struggle to arrange baby, thin paper lap sheet, and pink paper jacket in a modest assembly.

Since I’m already sweating, the paper clings to me. The baby can tell how fucking uncomfortable I am and his flailing arms conduct the symphony of his cries. I finally give up on modesty and throw the shredded, tiny paper napkin cover to the floor. I finagle his latch, and he slurps happily away. I also feel something warm and wet running down my belly. Oh right, the fucking milk let down of my other boob.

The doctor comes in to see a sweaty, milky, breathless mess of mother and baby. She graciously doesn’t stare at my condition and proceeds to get the basic questions out of the way. She seems relieved that I’m an easy postpartum patient, no baby-blues-depression or physical ailments to speak of.

Finally it’s time for the exam. I put the baby back in his car seat and he decides that since there is an additional audience he wants to be the compliant, quiet baby who makes people look at me sideways with doubt and a little judgement when I tell them that no he’s not an angel and yes in fact he does cry.

The doctor is impressed with my lipstick-red nipples, telling me that no they actually don’t look bad at all. Maybe she doesn’t know that they’ve been through a tiny, toothless meat grinder, but even if she did, she’s already moved on to the fun part of the visit, guiding my heels into stirrups.

She prods my outers and I feel kind of like a canine on a judging table at the dog show. She carefully lubricates her finger, and says to take a breath. I want to scream. How the fuck does a finger hurt this bad after a human head has done its damage? I whimper and grimace, and she tells me that the pain is normal. She also tells me everything looks good, I can resume sexual activity. I almost laugh in her face—I mean I would have if she was up at my shoulder level. After that exam it seems like a cold day in hell before that happens again. Sorry, hubs.

I ask her a few questions, she answers, slowly sliding towards the door. She hurries off to another patient, another mom-to-be or another postpartum-mom with more questions and more vaginas to examine. I look at my little guy in his car seat. Unaware of my adoration, he looks around at his fuzzy surroundings. I do my best to wipe myself free of the fluids that seem to be coming out of every surface, and notice that my breastmilk seems to have caused my fashion-forward paper jacket to stain my breasts and belly pink. How feminine.

I don’t know what I expected out of my postpartum visit, but probably like motherhood, it wasn’t this. Motherhood has been a unique challenge that I don’t think I would have ever been totally prepared to deal with. My tiny offspring and I are making it though, and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. Finally we are on our way home. Me to shower, him to poop (again), and my husband to disappointment.

Why making mom friends is a lot like dating

I nervously introduce myself after group one day. It seems like we have a lot in common, so why not give it a go, I think. Maybe this could be great. “Hey I’d love to hear more about what you do, do you want to meet up for coffee sometime?” “Sure!” she answers. She said yes! I think, but keep cool on the outside for fear of coming off like a weirdo. Gosh I hope she likes me.

No I’m not talking about picking up dates, I’m trying to make mom friends.

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In college making friends was easy. The person sitting next to you in class, a sorority sister, someone in your grad school group; the possibilities were endless. As an adult, I find that meeting women who make great friends is extremely challenging, even more so once I became a mother. Not only do I have to find women my age and with a young enough baby to start a conversation, but also hope that a friendship flows organically. I try to attend lots of moms groups and classes, primarily to keep my sanity and get out of the f—cking house, but also to try to make some friends that feel just as isolated and alone.

Writing this I feel a little pathetic. But there is something about the way I am able to connect with another woman who has gone through the same experiences I have in pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. There is a new kind of sisterhood that unites us, and opens the door for an easy introduction. Talking about cracked nipples or baby poop isn’t off limits, in fact it’s a hot topic of conversation. Dishing about your forever-changed love life while boobs-out breastfeeding in a restaurant? Common place.

Hearing that I’m not alone in clinging to my sleep-deprived sanity by a thread is assuaging. The fact that I’m not alone in letting my infant watch TV so I can have 20 minutes to myself helps me let go of my bad-parent guilt. Reassuring another mother who sobs about feeling so isolated and alone with her family thousands of miles away is uplifting. I feel that way, too, I tell her, but we can do this. Let’s get together more often.

Creating a circle of not only powerful women, but strong mothers, around me has been crucial in getting through these early and difficult months of motherhood. I never knew motherhood could ever be this challenging, but I’m not alone in my struggles. Getting together with these women allow us to celebrate our accomplishments thus far, while not forcing us to look far ahead at the challenges to come. I always feel grounded after getting together with mom friends. I feel that I am doing okay. And I realize that I am.

Find your tribe of women that lift you up, share common bonds, and that you can enjoy spending time with. Call your local hospital and ask if they have a new moms support group. Search Facebook for Your City + Mom group. Sign up for Meet Ups in your area. Go to song and story time at your local library. Google baby swim classes near me. Think outside of the box. If there is a hobby, you can be sure there is a group for mothers doing it. Get out there mama!

The moment I gave up the life I had created for myself so that I could help you create yours.

One mother’s choice of walking away from her career to rear her child.

It felt like opening my eyes to the sun for the first time. As the light of realization poured in, I felt the warmth in my soul. My eyes welled, as tears of fulfillment and peace rested on my lower lids like you rest content in my arms. My connection to you has never felt stronger, pulling on my heart and bringing a feeling that there is no analogy for, only the experience one has to have had to understand.

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Postpartum has brought many things: sleep deprivation, joy, anxiety, love, and pain. One of the most significant sources of anxiety and depression was the thought of going back to work after 12 short weeks home after giving birth. I realize that I am lucky to have had a full 12 weeks with you instead of the typical 6, but the thought of leaving you pains me worse than bringing you into this world did. My head and heart clash against one another. The societal demand and practicality of returning to the work force to make money in a job I had fought so hard to acquire. The emotional and primal desire to stay at home with you and help you take your first steps, say your first words, and watch in amazement as you achieve your milestones one day at a time. This internal battle has raged like titans inside me for weeks. Sometimes I shove it aside and avoid coming to terms with it. Sometimes I lay awake at night as you slumber beside me and obsess about my imminent decision.

Today is the day, and right now the moment, that I decide to give up the career path I had created for myself so that I can be with you as you create your own path. Eleven simple words on a mommy blog post changed everything for me: “Child life specialist by trade, stay at home mom by choice.” Choice. This is my choice, not society’s. I am choosing to give my notice at a job I got a scant year ago. I am choosing to walk away from the shaming of mothers who decide to give up everything to stay at home. I am choosing the most challenging job there is, the one of raising another person to be kind, loyal, and strong.  I am choosing to create a new life for myself, thus giving birth twice this summer, once to you, and once to my newfound passion for helping new mothers in their journey to a fulfilled motherhood.

As you coo and grunt happily on my chest, I watch the rise and fall of your back and feel at peace. I kiss your forehead very lightly so as to not wake you. Life has never felt more right for me. As I tear up again, this time in awe of the love I feel for such a small and helpless creature, I know in my heart that there really was no other choice for me to make after all.

 

An abbreviated version of this article was originally selected as an essay winner for the Transitional Seasons of Motherhood contest in Tribe Magazine. The article can be found here

9 Things I wish I had known about being postpartum

Having a baby is nothing short of a miracle. A woman’s body takes the [small] contribution of DNA from her partner and creates an entire human being. I’m always amazed every time I stop and think about the process. As amazing as all that is, the scariest part is the ending—the baby has got to come out somehow. Labor and delivery can be terrifying (read more here) but then a woman goes through a whole new, and often difficult, experience of postpartum. Yippee ki-yay mother f—ker.

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I took the classes, I read the books, but nothing truly prepared me for my postpartum journey. I fortunately had a good friend that told me some of the not-so-glamorous, in fact downright nasty, truths of a woman’s postpartum journey. And I’m so glad she did! Let me demystify the mysteries of what happens after the baby comes out. Why not start in the delivery room?

1.The labor doesn’t stop at the baby.

Exhausted, my baby was finally out. THANK YOU JESUS. My entire body collapsed into a jelly-like state. “Oh no,” the doctor said, “you’re not quite done yet.” Say what? She then proceeded to rub and knead my lower abdomen like pizza dough. A procedure performed by either a nurse or doctor, the uterine massage is an effort to help the placenta release from the uterine wall, which you will then push out and “deliver” like a baby. Fortunately, this is nothing compared to the actual labor, and it is fairly easy to push out. Word of warning, the placenta is EFFING HUGE. I wasn’t ready for my baby’s internal anchor to look like a veiny, multi-colored dinner plate. But it was actually pretty cool! If you have a c-section, the doctor typically removes the placenta before closing you up.

2. You still look pregnant after birth.

Basic reasoning stands that after the cause of your bump goes out, you should deflate right? Wrong. Sadly, so wrong. After birth, there is still a lot of blood, fluid, and a giant uterus still left behind. It takes time for your body to get back to normal, so don’t expect to look like your old self right away. Typically, a woman looks about six months pregnant after the baby comes out. I was super surprised that I still had a big belly when I looked at myself in the mirror. But hell, by that point I didn’t really give a flying f—k. Your body has undergone nine months of logic-defying distortion, so be kind to yourself. It’s okay to still have a little Buddha belly months later. It’s just a friendly reminder of the work you put into your offspring.

3. You bleed like an M-Fer.

Like your baby, the extra accumulated blood you’ve been holding in your uterus for nine months has to come out somehow. The books lead you to believe that this will resemble “a heavy period.” My ass it does. This was like no period I’ve ever had. And since you cannot wear tampons (like you would even want to after pushing out a watermelon), the hospital graciously gives you school-bus sized maxi pads. These babies are like three maxi pads put together. No worries, you won’t have to be concerned about how to keep the pad in your underwear, because the hospital also gives you fancy mesh undies that stretch up to your waist and can hold your pad, witch-hazel pads, ice pack, and whatever else that nurse wants to put up under your vagina, in place. Score.

4. You become a human sprinkler.

Breastfeeding can be an incredibly difficult (but worth it!) journey. I just assumed babies latch on and the milk is there ready to go. Not so. It takes a few days for the milk to fully come in, and when it does, you will be shocked at how your body changes. When breasts engorge they look like a Dolly Parton bad boob job. Huge, heavy, and rock hard, I almost cried in the dressing room at Motherhood Maternity trying on bras—so do NOT go nursing bra shopping on your engorgement day. Once your boobies adjust, it gets a lot better. I had always assumed milk just came out in a straight line (i.e. a water gun) and not a full-fledge sprinkler system (i.e. multiple streams spraying in every direction possible and soaking everything). It was insane. So just be prepared that you will definitely spray your baby in the face, probably quite often!

5. Postpartum depression can manifest as anxiety.

I was screened many times for postpartum depression by the hospital, OB, and my baby’s pediatrician—fairly standard for any new mom. I didn’t have any immediate problems, so I was happy to report that I felt great! However, about 3 months in I started having a lot of anxiety. I couldn’t pin point the cause, and felt relieved when I talked to other mothers that experienced the same. Depression can manifest in many ways to varying degrees. If you feel blue, or just off your game for any reason, talk to someone. Don’t feel like a failure or that it means you can’t handle motherhood, because it doesn’t. Your hormones don’t define you, your bomb-ass mothering skills do. You got this, girl.

6. You don’t need sleep.

For the first 3 months, I was so high on motherhood and adrenaline that I felt invincible. An hour or two of sleep at a time? No problem. I didn’t need sleep! I actually dreaded sunset because it meant that a night of being constantly woken up just when you fall asleep was imminent. I sighed with relief at daybreak, because it meant I could just stay up. Unfortunately, I learned why sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture. I know everyone tells you to sleep when the baby sleeps, and it gets super annoying. It’s not always possible! We aren’t newborns, and can’t sleep like they do. However, heed my warning, and take a damn nap, ok?

7. You lose your hair.

Every woman dreams about that shiny, full, healthy hair that comes along with pregnancy. Unfortunately, the change in hormones once the baby is out means that the hair comes out with it. I didn’t gain a lot of extra hair during pregnancy, but I have been losing a decent amount… daily. It’s a little unnerving to say the least. This begins about the third month and lasts for about a month. Don’t worry, anything lost will grow back.

8. You’re hungry AF.

As a breastfeeding new mom, I couldn’t believe how hungry I was every hour, even at night! I was hungrier postpartum than I ever was while pregnant. This makes sense, considering a breastfeeding mom needs to consume 500 calories+ per day to keep up with her baby’s feeding demands. Listen to your body, if you are hungry, eat! I enjoyed superfluous amounts of lasagna and ice cream postpartum. Sorry, not sorry.

9. You’re officially a bad ass bitch.

GIRL. You successfully grew and birthed a human. You are so bad ass! Even though my journey to motherhood is just beginning, I have never felt so powerful. I have an inner peace that I didn’t think possible, and love that little chubby, balding boy more than I ever could have imagined. Major, major kudos to you mama, what an accomplishment!

Finding peace in the darkest days of motherhood

This has been the hardest day of motherhood yet. I am frustrated and overwhelmed. I haven’t showered in two days, I have to go to the bathroom, and it’s 2:30 p.m. and I’ve only had a bowl of cereal to eat.

Last night Baby T had his worst bout of gas yet. His stomach stuck out like a pot belly, his intestines gurgled, and he cried. He pushed. He cried. He pushed again, forcing out tremendous farts. It would almost be comical if he weren’t so in pain and it wasn’t 2 a.m. T was so upset and angry that he wouldn’t latch on to my breast, and the lack of food made him more upset. Having to resort to a bottle made me more upset. We were quite the pair—exhausted, hungry, smelly, and angry.

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The sunrise brought a new day but no relief. T has passed a lot of poop but still seems gassy. I bottle feed him again. I am so very tired. I feel like a failure because we had made so much progress in the breast feeding routine, but it seems to be coming undone. When I offer my breast, he thrashes around at the nipple like a goddamned barracuda, but he won’t stay on. Latching on to a large bottle nipple is so much easier than a real breast, and T grabs it with gusto. Another stab in my heart. I hope he knows how hard I’m trying. I tear up. My confidence wanes, my frustration grows, and I’m sure T senses it and responds in kind.

Finally I give up on trying to get any more sleep today. I try breastfeeding him just one more time. By some miracle T latches on and stays on. I feel a little relieved. Once he’s done, I get him to give up a nice juicy burp. I put him in his rocker, hoping the motion will soothe him for more than 15 minutes. I grab some clothes (my standard post-partum uniform: nursing tank and granny panties) and head to the bathroom. I shower, reveling in warm water and honey-oat soap suds. I think about my day. I think about being a mom. I think about T. I think about going back to work and then think about going out to anywhere but the house. My immediate emotional recoil to these thoughts tells me what I already know deep down; no matter how hard the days are, and how much the harder the nights are, there isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.

I step out of the shower and try to find nursing pads and maxi pads, another established post-partum routine. I write. My Reiki and meditation station on Pandora sends out soothing tones into the room. T wakes up, and we engage in a battle of wills, the plastic nipple versus the flesh one. This time I feel different. I feel calmer and more confident. Finally I win, and T settles in for a long feeding on both sides, much to my surprise and delight.

I feel contentment, love and adoration for this adorable, albeit sometimes frightful, little being. When I look into those eyes, those precious newborn eyes, I know it is worth every sleep-deprived second.

Some days

I’m overthinking it. I’m trying to write about being emotionally and physically stuck and I just can’t do it. There’s too many words and too many story beginnings in my head, and nothing is coming together on paper. Well, on screen I guess. Fuck I wish I had some chocolate. Or cheese. None of which I can eat on this breastfeeding elimination diet. I’m digressing again into some useless mental tailspin instead of working on this. Baby T is sleeping on my chest, and I can almost hear the minutes ticking by until he wakes up again, and I will have gotten nothing done. Some days I feel hopeless. Can I even accomplish anything as a writer, blogger, entrepreneur? My critical voice says NO. My idealist voice says HELL YAS GURL.

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This is my third attempt at some semblance of a post today. Nothing is coming together. I wish this baby would nap longer. I wish I could hire someone to watch him a few hours a week so I could work on my passion projects. Oh right, I gave that option up when I quit my job to stay at home. Ironically, staying at home is a 24/7 job—I’m always on call for T. Even when my husband watches him, I’m still on call. Boobs on demand these days.

I’m acutely aware I chose this life. I wouldn’t change it, don’t get me wrong, but some days it is hard. A lot of times it is hard. I want so badly to be my own boss and independent, but instead I just traded one boss for a much shorter, fatter, balding one, and handed over my independence on a shiny, milk-filled platter.

Every day is different. Today I am proud to have showered, gone to new mom’s group, had lunch with a friend, and write. An immense success. I remind myself that small steps are better than no steps. A little step forward is still forward momentum, even though some days T’s poop shoots faster than my ideas do. I think about my big business dreams, and all the steps it’s going to take to get there. It’s overwhelming. I have no idea how the hell these moms do it—they run a successful business venture and a successful household. At least that’s how it looks on the outside.

Some days I feel like quitting. Maybe it was stupid to think that I could start my own business with a newborn. I think about why I even started this blog. I often felt alone during pregnancy, and I wanted to make sure no pregnant woman or new mom ever feels that way. Motherhood can be hard. It can suck. I always hear how worth it it is, but no one told me how hard things can get.

I keep writing. If other women do it, I can, too. I need to remember that some days, just getting through the day keeping the baby fed and happy is a successful day. Other days can be for working, submitting posts, and blogging. I put too much pressure on myself, but it’s hard not to when other moms seem to always have their shit together. I feel inadequate, not good enough, failing. Other moms tell me they feel the same thing; at least I’m not alone. I keep it up. I keep being the mom my son needs me to be. Some days, the most important thing I can do is share my story. Someday, I hope it will help you, too.