The one thing no one tells you about becoming a mom

I wish someone had told me. It’s like the world’s best kept secret. Maybe no one tells you the real truth because then maybe people wouldn’t have kids. But I’ll let you in on the secret…

Motherhood is really. Fucking. Hard.

I knew becoming a parent would be tough. I knew babies weren’t easy and you didn’t get much sleep. I knew about colic and the 24/7 care that babies required.

But I didn’t know it would be this hard.

4-6-17 The one thing cover

Truly, I didn’t expect it to be like this. Maybe knowing it wouldn’t have helped anyway, in the way that something someone tells you doesn’t have the same weight as personal experience.

I’m past my ninth month of sleep deprivation. I can count the nights I’ve gotten more than 6 hours of sleep in a row on one hand. Add this into newborn colic, infant illness, teething, baby mood swings, being on call every second of every day, and zero time for self-care, and it is turning out to be one hell of a year. It was a year I wasn’t prepared for, and didn’t see coming. It’s been hard. So hard.

But here’s the other amazing truth about being a mom… it is the best thing ever. Admittedly, I don’t always have this opinion at 3 am when I feel like crying and inwardly pray to my baby “Please, oh please, just go to back to sleep.” I might not feel this lovey dovey when he’s fighting his nap and I want to cry because his 30-minute-to-the-t nap time is some of the only time I get to myself during the day. But when I call my friend in a desperate attempt at adult conversation and pour out my aching, tired heart, and she tells me that sometimes it’s hard to make that connection with a difficult baby, my immediate and heart felt answer is “But I love being a mom.” And truthfully, I do.

It boggles me that even as broken as I had felt in that moment, my honest response was still one of love. I had surprised myself. I’ve never loved anything more than my little boy and the path of motherhood I am crawling walking on. I’ve had my lowest days as a mom that I’ve ever had in my life. But I’ve also had my highest. Having that realization was enough to get me through that day.

I just needed someone to tell me that it was going to be okay. That I was okay. That I am doing okay. I guarantee that every mom everywhere needs those words at one time or another. Babies are so hard. We don’t know what they want because they can’t tell us, and in between the cries and hours of rocking them alone in the dark, it can be hard to remember that we are everything to them, and that they aren’t doing it on purpose.

The next day was more than a new day and a fresh start for me. It was one of the best days I’ve had as a mother yet. It was full of giggles and hugs, a long nap for both of us and my son’s wet, open mouth “kisses” on my cheek. Those unexpected hours make up for the many dark ones. I wish I could capture that light I felt in a glass ball so that my heart could remember it during the heavy hours. Good days or bad, time passes so quickly. I would have to agree with everyone that always tells a new mom “Enjoy these moments, they go so fast.” Dark nights might feel like an eternity, but as I’m here almost a year later, I can testify that they pass in the blink of an eye.

So to all the tired, dark-circled, hungry, lonely moms out there: It’s fucking hard. I know. But you are enough. You are doing so well, and you are a really great mom. I wouldn’t lie to you, would I?

The art of mastering kindness (Especially when you want to drop kick that son of a…)

Why is it so hard to be nice?

I am not sure that human kindness is an innate feature. After all, way back when, if you were too kind you might get eaten. Being nice and favorable isn’t a survival mechanism. Selfishness is. And no I’m not talking about when you were back in middle or high school, I’m taking about early human evolution. Still, some kind of bonding must have occurred between these early humans, lest we wouldn’t have sociability or the innate need for companionship.

I read an article recently about a mom who is trying to teach her child about kindness and friendship. She tried to explain to her daughter that not being mean, or being indifferent, isn’t the same as being nice. I really started to think about this. Being indifferent to someone isn’t the same as being nice, or kind, to them.

So what is it, then, that makes kindness…kindness?

3-20-17 The art of mastering kindness cover

Kindness takes an extra degree of effort. It takes those extra few seconds to hold open a door, to ask a crying stranger if they are okay, or to organize a donation event for a food bank. So often we hurry through our day and, usually selfishly, just try to get to quittin’ time so that we can retreat back to our caves for food and quiet. I get it, though. The last thing I want to do after caring for my baby all day is to do more. I want to be alone and cherish my solitude. But I try to include small acts of kindness in my day and evening, because it is good for the heart. Do you ever do something for someone else and just feel good about it? That good feeling must be why the cavemen continued to be kind even though it could have meant a detriment to their survival. Maybe we haven’t really changed all that much, after all.

Kindness takes caring. In this crazy day and age that we live in, self-preservation is the name of the game. A lot of people have the mindset of “me, me, me,” and, I hate to say it, that the younger generations are even more so. It seems like they never grow out of that MINE stage—a never ending parents’ nightmare. Are we losing the art of caring for one another? Possibly. The number of individuals who volunteer has been declining for over a decade. Why? Some suggest that the emergence of the social culture online takes place of personal interaction, thus cutting off our exposure to seeing those who may need help most. Whatever the cause, it is a trend that I believe will decrease our empathy for others and foster selfishness and isolation in younger generations.

Kindness takes patience. Living near a big city, I experience my fair share of major traffic. Even on days when there really shouldn’t be traffic, there can be major backups that make a short drive into an unnecessarily long one. Before, I had no qualms about letting some choice words fly, or honking my horn to ensure that the moron going under the speed limit knew of my ire. Lately, when I let the f-bomb fly, I look in my rearview mirror and see my little baby looking back at me. I instantly feed guilty, even though he can’t understand such vocabulary yet. I imagine, though, that he understands tone, and I find myself apologizing for my bad behavior. If I want to set a good example for him, how can I have such a short fuse for something so insignificant as someone who didn’t merge properly? If my baby has taught me one thing, he has taught me to have the patience of a saint. The more patience I have, the calmer I feel, and the less angry outbursts [that raise my blood pressure a few notches] I have.

Kindness doesn’t expect reciprocation. Have you ever held the door open for someone or let someone cut in front of you on the road, and when they didn’t say thank you or give you the “thank you” wave you found yourself saying “You’re welcome!” in the most sarcastic tone you can muster? True kindness doesn’t mean getting something back. It requires giving because giving is good and the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter on what scale we give, we should act because it feels right. Granted, if you are on the receiving end then puh-lease wave a thank you; kindness is expressing gratitude, too, ya know!

Being nice is not indifference. Being nice takes more.

Think about one act of kindness that you can do today. Maybe if we had more people who were willing to take a few minutes to do good, we wouldn’t have as many problems as we do. Maybe you can be that one that helps change things, even for just one person for just a minute. You never know how far your good deed goes.

So yes, I’ll hold the door open for that person who walks by without a second glance, and still smile and say “You’re welcome!”, and mean it.

I’m a stay at home mom—did I ruin my life?

I recently read an article that is making the rounds on Facebook. In it, the author pens how she has regrets about becoming a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Don’t get me wrong, I understand that with every decision, there are regrets, and also realize that being a SAHM isn’t for everyone. However, I was a little floored at the depth of some of these regrets. The ones that surprised me most were that she felt she was letting down the feminists that paved the way for women to hold careers equal to men, and how her kids viewed her as doing nothing with her life.

While I couldn’t disagree with her more, I am not picking on the author—I am guessing that many SAHMs have also felt this way. This woman has been the only one I found to voice it. She also writes some other regrets that could have been paraphrasing my thoughts, namely concerns about not using her degree and becoming out of touch with the working world. These are two of the major concerns I had, and still have, when I made the decision to leave my career. Reading this article not only left me flabbergasted, but also left me starting to doubt if I had indeed made the right decision when I chose to stay at home.

3-14-15 SAHM ruin life cover

Although I can’t explain why, one morning later that week I woke up proud as fuck to be a stay at home mom. My brain must have rewired itself while I slept to give me a bolt of confidence, but I suddenly embodied a much braver and more confident woman. I didn’t recognize her at first because I don’t get to see her that often, which is a real shame, but there she was, unbridled and fiery. Why the hell would I feel bad about my decision? I elected to accept the most challenging career of one’s life: raising a child. Oh please, it’s not that hard you might say. I would answer that you probably didn’t stay at home and try it out then.

While I don’t decree that it is the only job that women have to at least try, I do decree that it is one that should be valued equally to others. This is one of the reasons why I was so prickly when reading the article. I’m not letting down our former female voices who fought for our equality, but doing them proud by making a choice. Feminism is about the ability to choose anything, and be anyone, you want to be. For me in the near future, it is being a mom. And I would make the comparison of mothers to childcare providers (one is paid and one is not) to stress the importance of child-rearing, but even childcare providers and, to a degree, teachers, are often looked at as little more than snot wipers, or in the best case overlooked entirely as to how important their profession is.

If we don’t teach our children to value what SAHMs do as an important contribution to society, then how will we ever change this stigma? Being a SAHM should never be expected of a woman, but should be seen as a valid and elemental part of the workforce. What more important job is there than raising our future generation to be healthy and well-adjusted children? SAHMs do a lot, and are an equal part of the partnership of a relationship.

As far as returning to the workforce, I have no doubts that it will be significantly challenging for myself if/when I go back one day. I could try to pursue some degree-using activities to keep my resume current, but even if I choose not to it is a shame that my alternative career will be looked at as wasted years by a boss at my next interview. Just because I traded keyboards for diapers and meetings for food-flinging food introductions doesn’t mean that I am a less qualified candidate than someone else. If you are arguing experience year for experience year then yes, obviously, I would lose out there. But quality? I don’t lose that just because I get peed on more often than you do.

For me, all of this boils down to being able to be confident in myself and my decisions. No one will ever agree entirely with every decision you make, but the decision you make is right for you. My choice is valid, and it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Aaaahhhhh I feel a sense of freedom in making that statement. It feels good to be free. And isn’t that what feminism is all about, anyway?

Why I let my baby cry: Sleep regression, baby sleep training methods, and what actually works

“I no sleep, mom”-The 4 month sleep regression

I made it about 5 and a half months of getting up every 1-3 hours to feed the baby. I was so exhausted and after giving everything I had to the baby, day in and day out, I was starting to reach my breaking point. Just when he was starting to sleep better at around 4 months, or what I thought was better, about 3 hour stretches, we hit the 4 month sleep regression. I had read mixed things about sleep regression online—from mom’s experiences to debate about if it even existed. It exists. And it’s real as fuck.

T started the regression a little later than 4 months, but once he did, he was up every 1-2 hours. It was so miserable. One of us had to get up and feed and/or rock him to sleep. This went on for weeks. I read everything I could about sleep and sleep regressions online, and was left feeling more confused than ever because every piece of advice directly conflicted the next piece I found.

3-6-17-why-i-let-my-baby-cry-cover-2

Finally, when T was about 5 and a half months, I called my pediatrician’s office. “I need to see someone today,” I told the receptionist, “I’m about to lose it.” I went in that afternoon and poured out my frustrations to the doctor. She listened empathetically, and assured me that I was doing great as a mom. “It’s really hard,” she told me, “it lasts a few weeks and then it should get better.” She went on to tell me that we had to do whatever we could to get some sleep, whether that was breastfeed T to sleep or rock him or whatever, but that it doesn’t help anyone to be so sleep deprived. She also didn’t recommend any form of sleep training until 6 months; babies were simply just too young to handle it before then.

I [almost begged] her to let me start solid foods, as everything I had heard told me that once T got baby cereal daily it would fill him up and make him less hungry at night, which should lead to longer sleep stretches. My fairy God-doctor said sure, we could do cereal or fruit or vegetables, but tailed this with a warning that it wouldn’t help the sleep. “It simply isn’t true, but I wish it were,” were her final words on the matter. I was so desperate I didn’t care. I was elated that I could try solids and that I almost had permission to just do what I needed to do to survive this regression.

I stocked up on baby oatmeal and sweet potatoes, and we tried to introduce solids. True to the doctor’s words, it didn’t help. Like every professional resource said, the introduction of solids are for learning and not for filling, and T still wanted his calories the boob-way. Nothing got better. Then at about 6 months, things got worse.

“My f-ing face hurts,  mom”- Teething

How is that even possible, right? What is worse than reverting back to newborn sleep? One word: TEETHING. Mother fucking teething. Mother Nature had a really good idea to take a happy baby and shove razor blades through his gums, which [in most babies] elicits a lot of pain. A lot of pain = no sleep. T was up every 15 minutes to hour and a half. I thought I might die. Apparently growth hormone is secreted while the body sleeps i.e. this makes teeth pop out i.e. no one is actually getting any sleep. The doctor had okayed the use of Tylenol, which seemed to help a little, but nothing helped like that tooth finally breaking the gums.

We got a few days of reprieve before the whole thing started again and a second tooth emerged. My poor sweet angel was in so much pain, I could hardly get frustrated with him over the shitty sleep and nap sessions. But we made it, and things went back to about every 2 hours. It was better than before, I guess.

“I never going to sleep, mom”- Sleep training

When the 6th month was well underway, things weren’t changing, and my husband and I finally decided we needed to try some form of sleep training. We agreed that we couldn’t bear to make our sweet angel cry, languishing alone and afraid in his crib and wailing until he fell asleep, so we started with the No-Cry Sleep Solution, the gentlest of methods.

I should also mention that I did a ton of research on every method possible. While many variations exist, there seem to be a few core methods from which everything is derived. The most gentle is designed for no crying ever, the middle ranges in crying allowance, while the full “cry it out” calls for putting baby to bed and letting him have at it, crying until he passes out, no intervention at all. No matter what, we decided this last option was absolutely not something we would resort to.

Anyway, the crux of the No-Cry Sleep Solution was to change sleep behaviors and ultimately teach baby to fall asleep on his own. The author said it may take longer than other methods, but I was willing to sacrifice a few more weeks of sleep if I could ultimately get a blissful 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Human beings have to learn how to do everything, even fall asleep. An analogy I read is that if your sleeping environment changes, it takes you a few nights to adjust and you get worse sleep, right? Eventually, though, you adapt and start sleeping just fine again. Most babies are allowed to fall asleep breastfeeding or being fed in the warm embrace of a parent, while being gently rocked and sung to. This is an amazing way to fall asleep, right? I wish someone would do this for me, but apparently it’s not acceptable for adults to be rocked to sleep while being sung to (but without boob, obviously).

All of these behaviors are thus associated with sleeping, so a baby begins to rely on them to fall asleep. When these elements aren’t there they can’t fall asleep, and what’s worse, when they wake up on their own alone in their crib, they can’t sleep and begin to cry out for mom or dad. This made so much sense I totally face palmed. I had unwittingly created a monster simply by being a loving mother. Of course these associations don’t apply to all babies. If you have an angel baby who sleeps well without any assistance then count yourself as having won the baby jackpot. For the rest of us haggard souls, though, sleep training is the next step.

We went about trying to change these associations, gently teaching T to not rely on breastfeeding to sleep. I even added the EASY method. This routine changes the standard wake, play, eat, sleep to wake, eat, play, sleep. We were excited to find success when we were able to break the breastfeeding association. But that’s about where our success ended. We followed the No-Cry to a T (ha!), but try as we might, we couldn’t get past the first step of putting T down drowsy but awake. This always resulted in crying, no matter how many times we repeated it. Exhausted, we eventually just gave in to holding him to sleep so someone in the house could at least get a few hours of shut eye. We kept trying, desperate for the method to work. I read and reread the book in case I made an error, but to no avail.

I eventually even tried adding in some of the fading method, where I would stand crib side and soothe T with gentle pats and song without picking him up. Not happening.

Weeks later and no progress to be had, T would wake up in the middle of the night wanting only to play, not to eat or be held. He’d wake up early, ready to start the day at ungodly hours. “That’s it,” I thought, delirious from sleep deprivation, “tonight you cry.”

I had finally reached my breaking point. After more than 7 months of broken sleep, I knew something had to change. There was no way I could continue in the shell of a person I had become. My other mom friends had found success with the Ferber method, so my husband and I finally decided to try it. In basic terms, Ferberizing your baby teaches them that bedtime means bedtime, and if they cry it will not result in pick-ups and snuggles (therefore why babies need to be old enough for this training). You follow bedtime routine, kisses and hugs, and put baby down with a cue word like “night night” and close the door. If baby cries you return at set intervals to assure baby it’s okay, and then gradually stretch out the intervals before re-entering. In theory, babies will learn to fall asleep independently.

Finally evening came, and we had a plan. Our intervals would be 3, 5, 7, 9, then 11 minutes, and if T still cried we would call it quits and pick him up. My brave husband would take the lead, given that T knows that mom is synonymous with boob. I fed my little guy hoping he couldn’t sense my apprehension and gave him a big kiss, then passed him off to dad for story and bed. I waited anxiously downstairs, wine in hand. For the nerves, you know. My husband came down and the crying commenced. Three minutes lasted hours. I was the worst mother in the world. Dad went up and came back. Five more agonizing minutes of crying passed. I was dying inside. Seven minutes. Pour more wine. Nine minutes. Pure human torture. Six minutes into the 11 minute interval, the crying subsided. Silence. My husband and I looked at each other in shock. He was asleep. Sweet Jesus, we did it. He woke up once that night to eat, and we didn’t hear a peep again until 7 am.

It was truly a miracle. I couldn’t believe it. I was afraid to count my success. The second night, we only made it five minutes into the 9 minute interval. T slept the entire night. I woke up in a panic the next morning, thinking something must be terribly wrong. Nope, that sweet boy was snoozing away. Every night got better, T only waking up once to eat or not at all, and sleeping about 12 hours. I didn’t know why this method got such immediate results, but I didn’t care. I was saved. I was sleeping. I felt so much better. It was obvious that T felt better, too. He was happier during the day and didn’t look so tired all the time.

I’m ultimately glad we went with this method. I am also glad that we waited. I don’t believe that T would have been ready earlier, and I probably wasn’t either. I definitely believe that babies need to have reached a certain development before the more drastic measures of sleep training are initiated. They also need to have the physical capacity to go all night without eating. I cringe when I read that moms of 3-month olds are letting them cry it out.

If you think that you might be ready to Ferber, I highly recommend the following steps:

  1. Consult your pediatrician. Sleep training is a big part of baby’s development, so you need to be sure baby is healthy and ready for it.
  2. Do your research. I read a ton of legitimate resources, including the actual Dr. Ferber writings, before attempting this training.
  3. Go in with a plan. You will likely fail if you do not have set parameters with your partner before going into this. What intervals will you follow? Will you follow the same intervals the next night, or start at the second interval length the second night, and the third the following, etc?
  4. Don’t start sleep training when baby is sick or teething, or during any other change in environment (like moving). Baby needs comfort and nourishment more than ever at these times, and adding a new stressor to the mix is a recipe for disaster.
  5. Know that it will suck. It’s horrible hearing your baby cry. Pick the stronger partner, if you have one, or bring in a friend or relative to help you. Having support makes a big difference.
  6. Have a middle of the night plan. What will you do if baby wakes up in the middle of the night? For most babies a “full night’s sleep” is only 6-7 hours, so baby may need to eat and top off in the middle of the night. For much older babies, they may just want comfort.
  7. It’s okay to bail. If the first night kills you, or you just aren’t seeing progress with this method, it is okay to stop. Don’t torture yourself or your baby. Sleep training only works if it works for everyone. It should not be endless stress that makes things worse than before.

I firmly believe that every baby is different and will need different sleep training. No one way works for each baby. We continue to adapt our methods for T’s developing needs, and you will need to do the same for your baby. Whatever method you choose is the right way. Don’t get derailed by all of these professional, and non-professional, opinions on what is “right” for your baby. Follow your gut instincts, you have them for a reason. At the end of the day, we have to do what works for our families, and do what we need to do to survive. Maybe the No-Cry method worked for your baby (if so, I am jealous!). If it means continuing to get up and breastfeed, then fine. Co-sleep [safely]? Fine. I support you, and expect the same in return. We gotta stick together, after all.

Until next time, mama. Wishing you good sleep and sweet dreams…

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?”

3-1-17-how-to-win-at-motherhood-cover

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.

2-24-17-postpartum-body-cover

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.

venus

How did we go from this standard of beauty…

skinny-model

… 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.

Motherhood at 8 months

Eight months have come and gone in a flash. Eight may seem like an insignificant milestone to some, but to me it feels like the most important number ever. My sweet boy isn’t a newborn babe anymore, and hasn’t been for a while, but every month birthday that passes yanks at my heartstrings like no other. Maybe T somehow knows he’s growing up, too, because he is much clingier lately. He’s always reaching for me. It could be that the separation anxiety phase is setting in, but I’ll stick with thinking that it is because he wants to hold onto me just a little bit longer. I want to hold him in my arms forever.

The neighbors are getting a new roof today, and the incessant banging is making the dogs bark which means that there is no morning nap to be had from T. For the first time in a while, I put him in his baby carrier to see if my movements will rock him to sleep like they used to. I breathe him in deeply. I hold his sweet head. We steal glances at each other. That feeling of overwhelming and deep rooted, primal love sets in again. I’m still amazed at this new kind of love, something I never knew I didn’t know I was missing.

These 8 months have been full of dualities. They have brought me the greatest joy and the greatest pain. The greatest elation and the greatest exhaustion I’ve ever experienced. The greatest frustration and the greatest peace. The closest yet furthest I’ve ever been from my husband. I’ve never had so much clarity in seeing my future direction, yet I still get lost in the enormity of my new responsibilities. A newfound sense of self-assuredness yet feeling completely clueless about how to be a mom.

I sweep aside his growing hair so I can kiss that sweet-smelling forehead. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of his smell. I breathe in a little deeper, trying to imprint my memory with his scent of baby, lavender, and Dreft, so that when he is a little grown and not so sweet-smelling I can reach back into my brain and be able to inhale him again.

Women keep telling me to enjoy the moments, because they go by so quickly. I could never truly comprehend what they were talking about until now. He’s already so big. I hold back the tears when I put away [yet another] outfit he’s outgrown. I revel in delight with every new milestone he hits, every new skill he can do. I long for the days gone by of his newborn coos and milk-drunk smiles. The way he curled up just so when I carried him against my chest.

I know he has to grow up, it is the way of life. We each have many more lessons to teach each other. I guess I just never knew that the love of my life and my greatest friend would divide into two; my husband and the tiny little mirror image of him.

2-21-17-eight-months-cover

I tried to make baby food and…

*This post may contain affiliate links

This past weekend I had a go at making my own baby food. It’s pretty trendy these days, so I figured why not give it a shot. It’s so much cheaper than buying it too!

I decided to start with yams since it is T’s favorite food. I baked two yams at 400o for almost an hour, basically until they were very soft. After the yams cooled, I scooped out the insides and mashed them to hell with a fork. I didn’t bother using a food puree-er; I had debated buying on of those baby food makers but it seems like an awful lot of money for what a fork or simple blender could do. Plus, our counter space and storage is at a premium these days.

baby-food-cover

After mashing up the sweet potatoes I mixed in about 20-30 mL of breastmilk to help it freeze better and add some nutrients in. I put some of the fresh feast into tupperware to use during the week, and then froze the rest. I found ice cube trays at the store that make extra-large ice cubes; you know, those novelty kinds that are probably more for scotch on the rocks? They also came with lids! I scooped what was left of the mash into the trays and put them in the freezer. Each giant cube should be about a serving for T, making it easier to cook food in bulk and save some for longer stretches.

This morning I made a fresh banana, proving to be T’s new favorite food. He kept opening his mouth impatiently for more! Bananas are easy, just mash with a fork and serve. I always add baby oatmeal for extra bulk and vitamins, and add breastmilk to make it a little more mushy and make it more palatable.

Next up—peas in a blender. And maybe meats? Stay tuned, I’m sure the posts will get a lot more colorful in both photo and description as the food making process gets more disgusting. How do babies enjoy this stuff anyway?

If you need some freezing trays, check out these ones.

If you are ready to say uncle and just buy a baby food maker, maybe this one will do the trick.

How to keep your motivation when you have zero Fs to give

It’s 8:08 p.m. and I couldn’t give a F less about writing. The baby is in bed, I’m full from dinner, and halfway through my second glass of wine (a real, appropriate glass, not a “I’m-pretending-this-is-one-glass glass”). Today was a good day: the baby was happy, my friend came to visit, and the baby didn’t cry too much before bed. A win all around!

Since tonight is video game night for my husband [cue eye rolling] I always sit down to the computer to get some writing done, and work on my blog if time permits before my [absurdly early to all non-parents] bedtime. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling very uninspired. The day is so eventful that all I want to do is rest when it is done. Actually, I guess that is the line I use so that I don’t have to work on my blog. “You deserve to just sit and rest!” I tell myself, before melting into the couch with another tv show.

The reality is that if I want my blog, and hopefully future business, to work, I need to work. A dream without the work is just that, a dream. It never finds fruition. Because I couldn’t care less right now I then begin the guilt soundtrack, right on schedule. I feel guilty that I don’t write more and work harder on my blog. If I troll Instagram I see nothing but successful moms, coiffed and running their own mini empires. Their t-shirt lines are successful (my effort failed). Their blog took off (mine is slow to start = fail). They found a unique niche and are now telling me how I can profit, too, for the low price of $19.95 (I can barely keep up with my blog and my life. FAIL.)

So what is the problem? Why can’t I get my shit together and work harder every night after the baby goes to sleep, dinner is put away, and dishes are running? To tell you very honestly, I can’t figure it out. Have you had this kind of dilemma? You want something so badly to work, but when it’s time to hit the pavement, you just can’t quite get moving? The answer isn’t simple. It’s not a one fits all answer. The answer is not at the bottom of your wine glass. Or second glass. Or third—I’ve checked all these places already.

2-10-17-how-to-keep-inspiration-cover

My brilliant mother always sends me the best articles. Inspiration, ah-ha moments, and life answers that all of a sudden spark a light bulb when really I should have been able to figure it out myself. One particular one she sent me—and I wish I had the link because it was so good, I must have put it somewhere for safekeeping i.e. it’s now lost forever—was so good and made such perfect sense. The most basic bottom line, and I’m doing the author an injustice here, was that motivation doesn’t lead to action. Action leads to motivation. And it’s totally, gobsmacked-ingly true!  There are so many times that when I really didn’t want to work on something but made myself start, I got excited and pushed full steam ahead all the way through. I even felt better afterwards—accomplished, satisfied, and uplifted, to be exact. Why hadn’t I started sooner?

I always ask myself that question, and the answer is as elusive at the next go around. I wish I could tell you that motivation led to great accomplishment, but so far I find it to be the opposite. So how do we start when we have no motivation to do so?

For one, I remind myself of the end goal. What am I trying to accomplish? What are my future plans? When I look at the big picture I can more realistically remind myself that I need to complete the smaller goals if I ever have hopes of reaching the prize. I sometimes write them down. I re-read my blog bio to remind myself that I am trying to help my readers, and help future readers, and I can’t do that if there is zero content to read.

Another tactic is to make a deal with myself. “Okay, write for ten minutes, just ten minutes, and then you can go do something else.” Almost every time that ten minutes turns into an hour, and results in a blog post and then some extra work to boot. Like I said before, once you get the locomotive moving, the steam usually carries it through to the next station. Are these metaphors doing anything for you? Moving on…

Do something else. Yes, you read that right. If I really am avoiding doing something, I do something else either a) creative or b) physical. Getting the juices flowing usually leads to more motivation to do something else. Has cleaning your teapot turned into cleaning your counters, which led to vacuuming the kitchen, which led to organizing the incoming mail? I hope I’m not the only one! As that author said, doing leads to motivation. The proof is in the pudding! Or in this third glass of wine. I mean, not food or wine. Writing? Yes, writing.

Avoid distractors. Nothing kills my train of thought like my cell phone. Because in that very inviting cell phone lies social media apps. And in those apps lie time waster after time waster. I can’t tell you how many times I go to “check” my notifications and find myself 20 minutes later scrolling through photo after photo, meme after meme. What a waste. In fact I’m adding “avoid cell phone numbing” to my daily list of tasks. It’s really a time waster, and really pointless! But don’t stop reading my post; I’m not a fuck-boy so I promise I won’t waste your time. You can keep coming back to me, girl.

And sometimes you just have to say to yourself “SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND DO IT.” My inner self pisses and moans, but my physical self sits in the chair and turns on the computer. I feel better every time when I’m done, but getting started? Whew, nah girl nah. I hate the phrase “Put on your big girl pants and do it.” I hate every variation thereof: “Put on lipstick and handle it.” “Put on gangster rap and get it done.” “Suck it up buttercup.” Dear Lord don’t say that last one to me EVER. I will crush you. I hate it that much. But find a phrase that works for you. What pushes you enough to sit down and just start? Write it on paper and tape it your mirror, cupboard, or fridge. Repeat it often. Out loud, if you have to. I promise, I won’t judge you for sounding like a crazy person.

My final piece of advice: just don’t do it. What?! You just told me to do it. Why would you tell me to quit it? I’m telling you this because sometimes, you really do just need to sit down and take a night off. If you are, in general, working very hard and are tired, you need to take some me-time so you don’t burn out. If you are burnt out you are good to nobody, especially yourself. It is way more likely that you will quit trying if you are tired and grow resentful toward whatever you are trying to do. The writing can wait. The dishes and laundry can wait. The _______ project can wait. But sometimes, just sometimes, the wine/Real Housewives/early morning run/afternoon yoga/[your vice here] cannot wait. It’s time to indulge it. Go ahead. I give you permission, if you need it.

Speaking of but not really but really because this is the end of the post, this banana bread cannot wait. I’m giving myself permission to call it a night. I’m sure the tomorrow me will thank the now me.

STOP explaining yourself!

“No, but because I just…”

“Yes, because I thought…”

“I didn’t know, I was trying to…”

What do all of these phrases have in common? All of these sentences are not giving a definitive answer, begin an explanation, and are the beginning of the unraveling of your confidence. They are statements we often use when trying to explain ourselves. Have you ever said something similar?

Why is explaining yourself such a bad thing? Typically, it is because we lack confidence in our answers or actions, and feel like we have to explain why we behaved the way we did, or why we chose or said something. We have to validate to an outside party why what we did was the right (or wrong) thing, instead of just saying a yes or no. We are so afraid of being judged by what we did or said, we often explain ourselves—unrequested, I might add—to another person or group to ensure that they know why we are right. Explain why we are smart. Explain why we hurt someone’s feelings. Explain why I made the decision to be a stay-at-home-mom. Oh, oops, that’s just me?

2-8-17-stop-explaining-yourself-cover

I notice myself explaining even in the most simplest of situations. “Would you like to make a donation of $1 to blah-blah charity?” “No,” I say, then ramble on about how this is actually my third time at the grocery store this week and assuredly I have already donated more than $1 earlier this week. What I should say is a simple “No” and leave it at that. I’m sure the cashier actually doesn’t care if I donate or not, or make judgements about the customers that don’t donate when they probably could afford it. Or maybe they do. Either way, it’s not my problem. Right or wrong, my choice is my choice.

I’ll give you another example, a tougher one. Have you ever RSVPed “no” to a wedding? Super awkward. One year, we elected not to go to an out of town—out of state, actually—wedding. The reason shouldn’t matter, but I’ll explain it to you anyway and completely contradict the point I’m trying to make. Like many 20-somethings, we went to a lot of weddings. A LOT. While great fun, they are usually greatly expensive. Especially when the weddings were rarely held near us. When another invite came in through the mail, we decided that financially, and just exhausted-ly, that we couldn’t do it. We declined. But we sent a gift!

I felt even worse when that thank you note for the gift came in, and the friend had written “Wish you could have been there! We missed you!”. While I doubt they actually noticed our absence on the most stressful/blissful day of their lives, I internally recoiled at the words. I felt so bad. I wanted to call and explain myself, lest their good feelings towards us remain permanently scarred! But I didn’t. We had made our choice, and I’m sure the friend was just being kind in his note.

If I actually stop and think about why I explain myself so much, it is because I feel worried about being judged and criticized. Surely if they understand my thinking, they will agree with me. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of my decision. Lest I sound like your mom, it is “Because I said so, that’s why!” You definitely don’t have to be so blunt, but next time you give a “yes” or “no,” listen to yourself say what comes next. Is it an explanation? How do you feel? Insecure? Uncomfortable? These kinds of situations may happen most while we are at work or talking to family or friends. Any strife in these relationships cause even more self-doubt and anxiety, prompting even further self-explanation.

This year we elected not to travel for Christmas, and celebrate our baby’s first Christmas at home. Instead of just saying “No” when asked if we were traveling, I found myself explaining (again) why I wasn’t coming, citing the most rational of reasons (cost, crying baby, stress, crying baby, lack of crib/car seat/stroller, crying baby…). It turned out that it didn’t matter what I said, my family would still be disappointed I wasn’t there. And that’s okay! I was disappointed I wouldn’t see them, too, but our choice was our choice. End of story. Period. Fin. And, gulp, they would just have to deal with it.

At the end of the day, we have to live with our decisions and as long as we can do that, the responses of others really don’t matter. If you’re like me, you really really hate causing hurt feelings or conflict, so you bend over backwards to avoid it. It turns out that when I do this, I end up being the one with the hurt feelings or anxiety. So pointless.

You are strong, smart, and capable. You make the right choices. Own your actions. If you always do and say what is right and what you believe, you won’t have to explain yourself. Your words, or lack of them, will speak for themselves.