Bursting the Bubble

Today is my last day home alone with T before I go back to work on Monday and I am sad. Not because I have to go back to work- honestly, I’m looking forward to using my intellect a little more again- but sad because of what that means.

It’s the same feeling that I’ve gotten after being discharged from the hospital after both boys were born. A sort of mourning knowing that phase is ending, even though I know the next phase will be exciting too. It’s really hard to articulate the feeling, but it’s almost as if the protective bubble around our relationship has been burst.

When I was pregnant, it was just him and I. My belly was literally a bubble around us, protecting our special bond. He only depended on me. When I gave birth, that bubble was replaced by the safety of the hospital. There, he was introduced to the outside world for the first time, and we were safe. It was a very special time, filled with just the love of his family and the caretakers who were so dedicated to keeping him healthy and getting him acclimated to life on the outside. Leaving the hospital thrust us into the world as a new family, never having navigated the terrain of being a family of 4 before. The only thing I know how to do instinctively as the mother in this new family dynamic is to love. So I love, hard.

Since I don’t have the physical bubble of my belly protecting him anymore, I’ve replaced it with an emotional one. For the last 12 weeks, T has only known my love. His days have been filled with the comfort of my breast and the warmth of my arms. When he cries, I appear and, though he still can’t understand why, I make him feel better. Our love is innocent and safe here.

The end of maternity leave means that my baby isn’t just mine anymore. I have to share him. We have to allow other people into the safety of our love, and trust that they won’t misbehave there. This tiny human manifestation of my heart outside of my body has to learn to depend on more than just me for comfort. It’s hard to accept that.  Intellectually, I understand that this is necessary. It’s the beginning of learning social behaviors and it will teach him many important life skills, but emotionally, it hurts. I’m not ready for him to have to trust his heart with anyone else. I’m not sure that I ever will be.

Life needs to move on so my sweet baby can grow, I know this. But for today, I just want to stay right here in the safety of our love bubble, just me and T.

Pee First, Mama

“Mommy street cred” That’s a thing, right?

It turns out that having two kids somehow makes me a trusted source of information on motherhood, which I find hysterical, because its not like I know what the hell I’m doing either. Since I’ve made it a point to forcefully insert myself into the lives of every new mother that I know as a way to help them create the village that they don’t know they need yet, I guess I’ve sort of embraced this responsibility, though.

So that brings us to the inevitable question that every one of these amazing women eventually asks: “What is your best advice for new moms?” I love this question and I love being trusted enough to have this asked of me. My advice? I have so much. Find your village. If you don’t have a village, create one. Be confident. No one knows the right way to raise your child except for you. You’ll get so many opinions whether you want them or not. Accept it all. Process it all. Be informed, then make a decision and own it. If you change your mind down the road, own that too. You don’t have to apologize. Be gentle on yourself. We are all honestly just figuring this out as we go along. Do what you need to do to keep you, your partner, and your child sane, safe, and healthy. Be direct. Tell people what you need. If you’re nursing, tell your partner, your mom, your best friend that you need their unequivocal support. You need them to hold you accountable, but you also need them to not bully you if you decide that your breastfeeding journey is over. Get out of the house. It is hard in the beginning- the logistics are intimidating- but you’ll figure it out. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Go somewhere safe- a new mom meetup, a breastfeeding support group, Babies R Us, the park down the street. Just do it. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you need to cry, cry. If you’re overwhelmed, put the baby in the safety of their crib and step away for a few minutes.

My best advice? Pee first. Yeah, its a funny answer, but it is essentially all of the more long-winded, flowery, fuzzy-feeling advice that I usually give boiled down into two words. Let me explain.

One of the most pivotal days in my motherhood journey so far has been the day that I realized that my kiddos will be just fine if they fuss or cry for a few moments before I can get to them. As long as I’m sure they aren’t sick, hurt, or in danger, they’ll be alright. They’ll be OK if I don’t pick them “UP!” for a few more minutes so I can take a few sips of my coffee while it is still hot. Tantrums can simmer for a bit while I stuff that freshly toasted piece of bread into my face. They can fuss a little in the safety of the pack n play while I take a quick warm shower. If someone wakes up and needs to be fed in the middle of the night, they’re won’t starve if I run to the bathroom and pee first. I am going to be stuck there feeding them for a while, after all.  No, I won’t neglect my screaming child if there is a legitimate, immediate need, but it has to be OK to take care of myself too.

Pee first. Its the essence of self-care. Take care of yourself so that you are well enough to take care of your babies. Take a shower. Take a nap. Accept help. Make peace with the mess.

Pee first. Don’t make yourself sick from being run-down. Don’t allow yourself to be overlooked. Its been all about you for 10 months, and now it is suddenly “not about you at all”. Except it is. It is so much about you.

Pee first, Mama. It’s the least you can do for yourself.

 

Holding On

A few days ago, Teddy reached out for me for the first time. He grabbed my hand  with his tiny little fingers and held on like he was never going to let go.

It was the first time, but it definitely won’t be the last. He will reach for me when he is tired, sad, or sick. When he is lonely or hungry or just needs to cuddle. He will always reach for me and I will always be there, just like I am with his brother. No matter how sad or tired or touched-out I am, I will be there. It is the definition of my job as their mama; to be there. I am their strength and their softness. I am their warmth and their shelter. I am their mama, and no one can love them better than I can. My love will shelter them. My love is enough. It always will be.

A few days ago, Teddy reached out for me for the first time. He grabbed my heart with his giant love and he will never let go.

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An Ode to the Six Week Checkup

For My Husband: On The Eve of My 6 Week Postpartum Visit

My appointment is tomorrow. Should I even let you know?
We’ve been through this recently, not so very long ago.

I know you’ve been real “patient”, since I’ve been off limits for six weeks,
You remind me of this often as I roll my eyes and bite my cheek.

If you could, I’m sure you’d stomp your feet and scream “this isn’t fair!”
But trust me when I tell you, things still just aren’t the same down there

Somehow you think I’m sexy, covered in sweat and sour spit,
And you just can’t get enough of me in this two day old outfit.

So you’ve been counting down the minutes, while I’ve been stocking up on lube
In-between these blurry days of blowout diapers and leaky boobs.

I’m sure you understand that while I love you very much,
I can’t control my current reflex to slap away your every touch.

I love how much you want to love me and I swear eventually I’ll bite,
But you’re gonna need to keep your damn hands to yourself for one more night.

And Then There Were Four

I love reading birth stories. No matter how diverse and unexpected, they are always beautiful.

“Tell me about your birth plan”, said Libby, my Labor & Delivery nurse. “I don’t have one.  I’ll tell you what I would love to happen, but I know that things change and I trust you guys to do whatever you need for me to have a healthy baby.”

I had said it hundreds of times, but did I actually believe it? As a mother who had given birth once, it was hard to fathom a different birth experience than what I had with Michael. Spontaneous. Two full days. No pain medications. (You can read that one here if you want!)

But here I was, admitted to L&D on Superbowl Sunday morning, on the cusp of beginning an induction that wasn’t “medically necessary”, solely because my instinct, combined with several minor issues over the past few days, was telling me that something wasn’t right. As if I needed further faith in my medical team, Linda, my Midwife was going to do whatever she needed to make that happen because she trusted my gut as well. She trusted me- just a mom with no medical degree. That speaks volumes to our relationship. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Teddy’s birth story really began on Friday, when, after some bleeding, I marched myself right over to the Midwife’s office to be checked. After a few hours of tests and ultrasounds, it was determined that the baby was not in distress. The bleeding wasn’t severe, and we couldn’t identify the source, so it was decided that it was just some variation of normal and I was likely in early labor. I went home with instructions to just keep a very close eye on fetal movement and come back in if there were any concerns.

Sunday morning around 4:30, I woke up to a gush. Surely, my water had broken, I thought. I was very alarmed when I discovered that it was actually quite a bit of blood. A quick call to Linda, and it was determined that I needed to head into L&D to be checked again. My hubby called my MIL who was going to get dressed and drive down. I called a good friend who lived nearby to come and watch Michael at the house until my MIL got here. I texted my Doula, Shawna, to let her know what was going on. Go plan activated. Check. Check. Check.

When we got to the hospital, I was taken to the room with the labor tub- the same room where Michael was born almost exactly 22 months earlier. Luckily for me, it seemed to be a quiet morning in L&D. I was hooked up to all the monitors for the same testing that was done on Friday. NST to check fetal heart rate. Ultrasound to check fluid levels. Physical check for dilation. Heart rate was fine. Fluid levels were high enough. Still 2 cm dilated, as I had been for a few weeks. Linda came in to go over the test results. Everything looked good. The baby was not in distress. She still did not have an explanation for the bleeding, but there was no medical reason for her to induce me. She gave me two options: go home with the strict instructions that if fetal movement decreased or there was any more bleeding, to come back in or induce right then. Elective inductions are not usually done on Sundays, so she promised that if I decided to stay, she would provide the nurses with a medical reason why it needed to happen.

I’ll be honest. I know enough about birth to know that induction can lead to further unwanted interventions. Induction terrified me and I wanted to avoid it. I talked to Mike. I talked to Linda. I talked to Shawna. I talked to everyone a second and third time. I was nervous about the bleeding, but I was more nervous at the prospect of induction and all that came with it, so I decided that I wanted to go home. I told Mike, who, knowingly, looked at me and said “You don’t seem 100% confident in your decision.” I’d been made. How lucky am I to have a partner who knows me well enough to stop me when I am making a decision out of fear? (Even on Super Bowl Sunday!) “You’re right.” I said, “we need to have this baby today.” While deciding to induce was completely out of character for me, I knew in my heart that it was time for us to meet that baby boy.

What a strange feeling to not be in active labor, but to know that you will be soon. To know that you are willingly volunteering to start the process of one of the most trying physical experiences a person can go through. To know that, somehow, you are going to meet your baby within the next several hours. I signed the papers and said a prayer.

By 10:45am, we had begun the Pitocin drip. For the first few hours, I was really just trying to relax and have fun with it. The contractions were bearable, so I was bouncing on my labor ball and rocking out to some EDM. Mike tried to turn on the Superbowl pregame coverage, but it was really distracting me and causing my contractions to slow down so I told him to turn it off (Sorry babe!)

 By 1pm, I could tell that this labor was going to be very different than my first. I called Shawna and told her that we were ready for her to head in to help out. The Pitocin contractions that I was feeling were already similar in quality to those I experienced at the very end of my spontaneous labor with Michael. I can’t explain exactly, but Pitocin contractions are, for lack of a better term, relentless. With spontaneous labor, I feel like your body takes time to prepare you and ramp up to these back-to-back hard contractions that eventually come. With Pitocin, the contractions are chemically manufactured to occur every 2-3 minutes as soon as possible, so that they can be the most effective. Mentally and physically, you don’t have time to get yourself “there”. The medicine just starts to do its job and you are “there”, whether you’re ready or not, until its time for the baby to arrive.  It does not act like a tide which ebbs and flows. It is like waves crashing repeatedly into a rocky shore. I began to have to really manage my way through the contractions sooner than I expected. I tried bouncing on my yoga ball, standing, walking the halls (thankfully, the hospital was more than willing to hook me up to portable monitors and IV drip so that I could be mobile!) but found that relaxing, breathing, surrendering, and getting very introverted was giving me the most effective contractions. 5 deep breaths. I found that the contractions were lasting 5 deep breaths, and that felt manageable to me. Mike and Shawna were amazing. They went with my vibe- when I was vocal, they shared my affirmations. When I was introverted, they got quiet. They knew when to apply counter-pressure and when to not touch me.

By 5pm, my “relaxing and breathing through it” seemed to be less effective. I asked to be checked and was disheartened to find that I was only at 4cm. Linda asked if I was willing to have my water broken to see if that helped move things along. I had my water broken with Michael as well, so I knew what to expect and was comfortable with it. At Linda’s suggestion, I was able to get into the labor tub in the room after my water was broken. Again, I am so grateful to have been laboring under an amazing team who helped me figure out how to spend some time in the labor tub even with the monitors on my belly and IV in my wrist. I am a water baby and have very fond memories of laboring in the very same tub during Michael’s birth. The water allowed me to mentally relax into the contractions a bit more than I could before, but after just 1.5 hours or so, I felt that I was not getting the relief that I needed anymore.

Once on dry land again, I tried to manage the contractions again by counting breaths, but at this point I was in so much pain that I could barely vocalize my needs. I was exhausted and literally could not keep my eyes open. I distinctly remember thinking “this is what zombies must feel like” as I tried to keep at it.

At 7pm, Linda wanted to check my progress again. 6cm dilated. I started doing mental math. 2 cm when I got here. 6 cm now. 4 cm divided by the number of hours since I started pitocin times 4 more cm = I couldn’t go on like this.

“I need medication.” Mike and Shawna, in trying to help me stick to my wishes, reaffirmed how wonderful I was doing and how proud they were of me. “You can do this” they said. God bless them. “I don’t have anything to prove to anybody”, said me- the woman who had barely managed to squeeze out a string of more than 2 legible words over the past few hours. “Amber is a woman who knows what she needs” said Linda. That beautiful angel of a woman. She knew my hesitations about an epidural from our prenatal conversations, so she offered me a narcotic option instead. While less invasive, it would mean that a medical team would have to take the baby first to assess him before I got to hold him if he were born within a certain amount of time. “Absolutely not”, I said. I was flexible on many things, but one thing I would not give up without a fight was the possibility to be the first arms to hold that sweet boy. “I’ll get the anesthesiologist”. Thank God.

By 8pm, my epidural was placed and the anesthesiologist had left the room. “It should start working within 15-30 minutes” he said. It couldn’t have started working soon enough, if you had asked me. “Now you can relax for a few hours, maybe even sleep, and when you wake up it will be time to push!” Linda said. She was going to go try to get a little rest in the lounge as well. Sounded great to me. “I’ll be back in about a half hour to place a catheter” said Libby. Over the next few contractions, I could feel myself beginning to relax more in-between contractions. I was frustrated that I could still feel all of the contractions themselves, but the relief in-between was truly a gift. I honestly believe that it made all the difference in the last bit of my birth story.

At 8:30pm, Shawna was applying counter-pressure to my lower back during a contraction when I started feeling urgent pressure in my bottom.The feeling did not come on gradually- it came in all at once and unrelenting. I mustered all of the energy I could and urgently mumbled “I’m feeling a lot of pressure!” Shawna thought I was yelling at her for applying too much counter-pressure and she was taken aback. When I realized that she hadn’t heard me, I screamed “I have to push!”  Shawna & Mike said they would call for the nurse. I knew this baby was coming, but I don’t think that Mike, Shawna, or Libby believed me until Libby checked me at Shawna’s urging and saw that the baby was crowning. I had progressed from 6 to 10cm in a matter of 1.5 hours. Something that none of us expected.

From here, things got a little frenzied. This little boy was coming, ready or not! I remembered from Michael’s birth that Linda had me hold my breath and slowly blow it out to help pace the pushing. Like I was blowing out a candle. Linda hadn’t made it down to the room yet, so I “blew out the candle” as best as I could to slow this kid down. At this point, I was grateful that the Epidural hadn’t numbed me yet so I could feel and control what my body was doing. A second nurse hastily got the baby station in the room set up. Linda had been paged again, but wasn’t responding. Libby went into the hall to get anyone else who was around and could help deliver this baby. The two resident doctors on rotation in OB that Sunday came in to the room and Libby quickly explained that the baby was coming. No sooner than the residents got into the room and threw on some gloves, Theodore Anthony flew into the world. 8:50pm after 2 pushes, I was a Mama again.

A few minutes later, a very surprised Linda came tearing into the room (apologetic for not having gotten there sooner!) to help wrap up the process and do an evaluation. While Teddy nursed like a champ on Mama’s chest, Linda helped me deliver the placenta (which I later had made into capsules- I’ll blog more about this later!) and, upon looking it over, discovered that I actually had a placental abruption and a small blood clot, which explains the bleeding I had been having the past few days. She validated my instincts by telling me that induction today was the right decision. Had I waited any longer, the abruption could have caused serious issues for both me and Teddy. I had a little bit above average bleeding, likely due to the abruption, but miraculously, despite not being coached through my pushing, no tearing at all! Since the epidural had not numbed my legs yet, I was able to avoid a catheter all-together and even able to get up and walk myself to the bathroom shortly after Teddy’s birth.

While Teddy’s birth story was much different than I envisioned, it was just as beautiful as I could have imagined. For the past two years, I have been very vocal about my natural birth experience with Michael and, in a weird way, I am glad that Teddy’s birth was so different so that I can share on other aspects of birth now from a place of experience.

Just as in Michael’s birth, I was reminded of the importance of having a birth team that you trust implicitly with your and your child’s life. My Midwife, Linda, my Doula, Shawna, my Nurse, Libby, and my amazing hubby, Mike were all on my side. No one was trying to diminish my feelings. No one questioned my requests or feedback. I felt 100% supported and knew that, if any of them said that something needed to happen, it was not just to meet a quota or because they wanted to go home earlier or because it was easier for them. It was because that was what was necessary for the safe delivery of my baby boy. I can’t imagine making the decisions that had to be made that day without the support from and confidence in my birth team.

Most importantly, I learned to trust my own instinct. One of the reasons I decided to do the induction was because I said that I would not be able to live with myself had we gone home and something happened to Teddy. I shudder to think of what could have happened if this abruption continued to go undetected, but because of my own mommy instinct, I don’t have to. This is a lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

It felt like the longest day of my life, but once it was done, it was all a blur. Like all the nerves and the pain never even happened. Labor is just like motherhood in that way. The hours are long, but the days are short, and now the two most beautiful boys in the world call me Mama. Someone pinch me.

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Oh, My God

I believe in God, but I’m not so sure that I believe in religion.

Hear me out, here.

I’m not against religion, in fact, I had a strong religious upbringing which I often credit for the way that I’ve “turned out” (who are we kidding, I’m still such a work in progress). I spent my weekends at youth group and my week nights at religious education classes and I don’t resent that for a second, I’m just not sure that a church is what I need anymore to quantify my relationship with God.

I know my God, and I know the type of person that God teaches me to be: loving, inclusive, patient, peaceful, forgiving, understanding, and accepting. My God is happy to listen to me no matter where I am- whether that is in a building with other people doing the same or alone in the woods or in my car. He doesn’t require donations and doesn’t guilt me into doing good deeds. My God expects me to act as a good person of my own accord and is there for me when I fall short of that. My God doesn’t judge me, and doesn’t condone me judging others. The God I know is like an old friend who, no matter how much time we spend apart, catching up feels like we’ve never missed a beat.

This is the God that my family needs in our lives.

Our religious identity as a family (or lack-thereof) is something that we talk about often. Now that we are going to be responsible for raising a second tiny human into a respectful, adult member of society, it is something that I find myself thinking on even more often.

I have had a lot of amazing, well-meaning people who have shared concerns about the fact that my child isn’t following the traditions of their church. Worries that, for example, “his (tiny, innocent, perfect) soul won’t make it into heaven” if we don’t get him baptized, and it is well-meaning comments like these that, unfortunately, have the opposite of their intended effect on me.

I want my children to know God, but not THAT judgmental God. I want them to know the one that I know. Better than that, I want them to know that God in whatever new ways that they come to know him as they grow and learn to be good people in this crazy, scary world.

So it sounds like I know where I stand, right? I usually feel that way too, but then I hear the voice of younger me say “Without a religion- a church, a group, a class- how do you get your Children acquainted with that God?”

My answer, for now at least, is this: lead by example and surround my children with a community of like-minded people. I did not turn out  a decent human because I sang praise songs in a group of other teens once a week, I turned out a good person because the people that I spent my time with and the people that I loved were good people who, at the very least, respected my beliefs.

This decision in my family’s life  isn’t set in stone, but for now I’m finding peace in knowing this: my husband and I are good people. Our family members are good people. The friends we surround ourselves with are good people. We are all loving, inclusive, patient, peaceful, forgiving, understanding, and accepting people and, by default, we are showing our kids the type of people that they should aspire to be.

I think our kids might end up alright.

So your BFF Had a Baby… (A Guide To Not Being A Crappy Friend)

I’ve always known that parenthood changes people, but in the past year I’ve learned that it changes a lot more people than just the new parents. I recognize that it is not easy to know what is needed of you as a friend to a new parent when you’ve never had a child yourself. Hell, I’m guilty myself of being a pretty terrible new-parent friend in the past! So I’ve taken the liberty to reflect on the past year and compile a handy guide for everyone with BFFs who recently have, or may someday plan to procreate.

“How To Not Be A Crappy Friend To Your BFFs Who Just Had A Baby.”

1) Before the baby arrives: Find out what you can help with when the time comes. Can you come over to let their dogs out while they are at the hospital? Can you come to the hospital and be in charge of delivery room security to keep unsavory family members or acquaintances at bay? (Bonus points if you volunteer to be the delivery room HD photographer)

2) When they are still in the hospital: Ask what they want from you. Do they want you to come visit? Come visit! Do they want you to stay away and let them have their first few days together as a family alone? Stay the hell away. Do they want you to bring them Thai food for dinner instead of crappy hospital food? Show up with that goddamn Thai food! Remember that right now, and forever more (but especially now) this is not about you.

3) The first few days at home: Call mom. Ask her how she is. Remind her of her value as a human and as your friend. It is a harsh reality to be thrust into this world where your only conversations take place while half (or fully!) asleep and are about chapped nipples and colors of baby poop. Gossip with her. Tell her about what she is missing around the office. Remind her that there is life outside of the mombie reality that she is living in right now. Call dad. Ask him if he can come out for a drink. Get him out of the house and remind him that, even though his wife is a hormonal mess and makes him feel worthless most of the time, he is valuable! He has that charm, wit, and sense of humor that all other BFFs envy.

4) The first few weeks at home: With permission, show up with food. Don’t ask what they want- they are tired of making decisions (and thinking in general)- and you know them well enough to bring something they will willingly consume. That will be good enough. Hold their baby and don’t feel jilted when they say “Can you handle this for a little while? GREAT!!!!” then mom disappear into the bathroom for a shower and dad to the den to nap for an hour while you are left with a newborn baby, watching the moving that you brought over without them.

5) The first months (ok, and really forever): Make plans with your BFFs, and more importantly, KEEP plans with your BFFs. If you make plans with your new parent friends which requires them to schedule a babysitterdo not bail on them. It takes a lot to get new parents to leave their baby in the care of someone else. Know that. As much as they crave sanity and a social life, it is difficult to trust another human with your own flesh and blood baby.  If you make plans with your new parent friends that INCLUDE their baby, honor the time frame that THEY set up. I don’t care if you are used to eating dinner at 9pm. If your new parent friends need to make restaurant reservations at 5pm so they can get their baby home for a 7pm bedtime, you do whatever you need to do to be there with fricking bells on. Call it “lunch” amongst yourselves, for all we care. Just be there and love it. Under no circumstances forget or reschedule these plans. Even though they may seem lame to you, you need to realize that this is the only shred of social plans that your BFFs have had all week and they have been looking forward to it as if it were the party of the year. Saying “Oops! I forgot I made other plans at the same time for [super fancy event] at [super not-baby-friendly location]- YOU SHOULD COME!” is not an option for your babtsitterless friends, and is a sure way to cause new mom to angry drink margaritas and talk shit about you all night. BONUS BFF POINTS: If you are looking to not only maintain BFF status, but catapult yourself to the next level of friend-love, volunteer to babysit while mom and dad go out. We had a friend do this for us and, to this day, I tell everyone I know about it. It was truly the most refreshing, generous gift that anyone gave me in the post-partum period (or maybe my life.) Sure, we just grabbed dinner then walked around Target, but the fact that someone loved me enough to put aside their own plans so that my husband and I could reconnect on our first date night in months still speaks volumes to me about that particular friendship.

6) For the rest of eternity: Care.. Or “care”.  Even if you don’t, pretend you do. Your BFFs now live in a poopy, tantrum-infused reality. You are still their BFFs (if you’ve followed the steps above) but BFF means something different now. Be OK with that. More than that, be HAPPY about it. Be invested in their child’s life. Your BFFs don’t care if you go months without seeing them, but they won’t forgive you for going months without seeing their baby. If you want to stay BFFs, you’re now BFFs-by-association with their baby whether you like it or not. Live it. Love it. Own it.

This may all sound horrible now, but I assure you that when the tables have turned and you decide to create some minions of your own, you will regret ever not treating your BFFs as outlined above.

You’re welcome.

The Problem With Being Needed

Its so hard being me.

Ok, its not really. I have a lot of great things going for me- a job that let me change to part-time so that I could focus on making my work-life balance weigh a little more in favor of “life”, a relatively low-maintenance baby, a beautiful home, and a partner that is just that- a partner. Its not actually “me” that is is so hard to be, it is “mom” that is so hard to be. I think this is true no matter who you are. Being a mom is harrowing. It is exhausting. It is beautiful. It is crazy. It is trying. It is fun. There are a lot of adjectives that could be used to describe being a mom, but I am beginning to think that none of them are just right. “Mom” needs to be its own adjective.

If I had to pick one word to describe how being a mom makes me feel the most often, it would have to be: “Needed”. Who doesn’t want to be needed? Let me tell you who: me. Just for a few hours. I love being needed. I love being important. But I also love the thought of, just for a little while, sitting around and doing nothing and it being of no consequence to anyone else. I would like to mindlessly watch crime dramas on TV without having to worry permanently damaging my child’s mental well-being. I would like to use my sick days when I am actually sick, rather than when my baby is sick and has to stay home from daycare. I would like to take a day nap. Who are we kidding, I would like to just get a night’s sleep. A full night’s sleep. Even a half night’s sleep! In my bed with my husband and without a (very adorable) little baby snacking at the all you can eat 24-hour boobie buffet and simultaneously kicking my thighs and picking my nose with his sticky little fingers all night since he refuses to sleep in his own bed.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how I’m feeling at the moment) for me, the neediness of those around me doesn’t end there. I am lusted after by my husband (this isn’t exactly what I would consider a “problem”, but nonetheless). I am constantly on call available to my team at work. I am regularly working on projects for the online shop that I run and periodically working on projects for the board that I voluntarily chair. Someone always needs something from me, and no one, especially the tiniest little boss of them all, seem to realize that I am needed full-time by any of the others at the same time. “You should be grateful” they yell. “Stop complaining” they scream. Listen up- I am grateful. I am SO grateful. And I’m not complaining, I’m venting (there’s a difference). But just give me this moment. Please. I need this moment.

The problem with being needed is that it is exhausting.

The problem with being needed is that I need me too.

The problem with being needed is that it is addicting.

The problem with being needed is that it forces me to focus on those around me before myself

The problem with being needed is that it has turned me into the best version of myself that I have ever known.

Wait, who said there was a problem with being needed?

I’m tired.

How Does She Do It?

One of the most amazing things to me about being a mother is the mysticism and awe surrounding how we get through the day-to-day. Whether we’re a working mom (“How do you do it all!?”) or a stay-at-home mom (“What do you DO all day?!), someone is always looking for us to justify how we are spending our time.

Luckily for me, I have the honor of knowing a virtual garden-variety of mommies- most of whom have kiddos about the same age as mine. This particular group of ladies is amazingly respectful, supportive, apathetic, and eager to share. They were all too happy, then, when I asked for them to share how they spend their days with their 4-6 month old babies. My little jaunt into the enthnography of “Mothers of 4-6 month olds” opened my eyes to the fact that every baby and every family is different. And what’s more- the way that every mother spends time with THEIR child, is right. Also, that Mom-stamina (Can we call it “momina?”) is AMAZING.

I dare you to read these real-life daily schedules and not feel exhausted afterward!

“5:30am-7:15am Wake up, feed baby, pump, dress/change baby, get myself ready, hand baby off to daddy to take to daycare, quick breakfast, feed dogs/take out to potty, load bags & dogs in the car (dogs come to work with me)
7:15am-5:30pm Commute to work, work, pump 4x somewhere in there, commute home, unload bags & dogs
5:30pm-6pm Pick up baby from daycare & bring home
6pm-8:30pm Nurse baby, make dinner, eat once hubby gets home around 6:30, playtime with the little guy, bathe baby, nurse him again, put baby to bed
8:30pm-10:30pm Shower, work on my blog/planning a friend’s bachelorette party/working on projects for a group that I am a chair of
10:30pm- Lose my mind, collapse into bed, wonder how I can go on like this, and pray that baby doesn’t wake too many times to feed overnight
Repeat.”
-Amber K.

“5:30-Wake up, nurse baby to sleep and relax
6:30-Get ready super quiet, get 3 yr old breakfast, iron, have 3 yr old feed dog
7:30 leave for the office
8-5 eat breakfast at work, have way too many meetings, pump 2-3 times, try to sneak in 30 min workout.
5:30-6:30 dinner with family. If class night in class 6-10pm. If not, play with kids.
8 put baby to bed
9 read/homework/remote office work/pay bills/watch documentary with hubby
12Am go to sleep
3 sleep nurse
4 get 3yr old waking up
Repeat.

…honestly I am super thankful to have a stay at home hubby. He cleans the house, cares for the kids all day, takes care of our chickens, trains our puppy, washes the cloth diapers. I wouldnt be able to balance myself without him. Id have to take on much less. Right now I have time to volunteer and be involved in the community. I couldnt do that without him.”
-Lacey B.

“1am breast feed
3-5 am breast feed
7am up daddy gets baby ready so I can wash my face
715 breastfeed and grab a snack
8-10 husband leaves for work and baby and I play for a little bit then naps in my lap (every time I move or leave her side she wakes)
1130-130 (depending on day) get lunch ready laundry dishes
12-2 husband comes home for lunch we will eat and watch baby so I can get dressed and shower.
1-3 husband leaves and I try to get baby to play or we talk a walk or read
3-5 nap and straighten up
5-7 husband comes home and showers. Baby and I cook. Then eat. Spend time with baby and husband read get ready for bed and go to sleep.

During all this add lots of diapers soothing a colic loving baby girl breastfeeding eating when I can.”
-Gabriella M.

“7 am: Half way wake up and kiss my honey as he leaves for work.
8 am: Wake up, feed baby then he falls back asleep not too long after that.
8:30 am until noon: Start laundry, watch tv, maybe eat something…basically just relax.
Noon: Feed baby, a couple hours of playtime/cleaning. Then baby falls asleep.
1pm: I eat lunch and clean some more.
2 pm until 4 pm: Feed baby, clean and playtime.
4 pm: Start dinner.
5 pm: Daddy gets home/feed baby.

The rest of the day is either running around town or hanging out and watching movies, playing with baby, etc.

On the days when there isn’t much to clean I’m extremely bored…lol. Basically I clean and take care of the baby all day.
I wish I could work but I would be working just to pay the daycare costs. It’s so expensive. Going to start watching two children during the day for some extra money and to keep me busy! I admire you workin’ mommas!”
-Chelsey S.

“5:30 – alarm goes off, snooze.
5:45 – pull Benny over to me and feed him
6:00 – 6:15 get in the shower (Benny sits in the bathroom while I shower, helps with congestion and lets his Dad sleep a bit longer.
6:30 – get bottles ready for the day and wash my breast pump. Pack breakfast and lunch. Make coffee.
7:00 – feed Benny again. Change his diaper and get him dressed.
7:15-7:30 – Mike takes benny to daycare. Get ready and dressed for the day (provided I can find something that actually fits, ha!)
8:25 – walk to work (across the street practically)
8:30 – arrive, get my pump room set up for the day. Make my oatmeal.
9:30-10 pump
12 – eat lunch at my desk since I use a lot of time during the day pumping
1:30-2 – pump again
4:45 – leave to get Benny for daycare (Mike and I go together. BEST part of my day!!!)
5:15 feed Benny
6 – watch trashy tv
6:15 – Mike makes dinner (what a doll)
Fall asleep by 8 usually
10 – feed Benny
1:30-3 feed again

Rinse, wash, repeat!!!”
-Kristin J.

“7:30-9 am wake up, take the dogs out to potty, feed Cannon, make breakfast while Cannon plays, and put Cannon down for a nap.
9-10:30 am go back to sleep till Cannon wakes up about 10:30 and then feed him!
10:30-12 pm clean up the house, laundry, make lunch for Dylan and I, watch tv/ play with Cannon and put Cannon down for another nap.
12-4:30 pm Dylan comes home for lunch and we eat, I take the dogs out again, feed Cannon at 1:30, run any errands that are needed, play with Cannon till about 3:30 when he goes down for another nap. Dylan gets home around 4:30 and I feed Cannon again!
5-8 pm make dinner while Dylan has Cannon, hang out with Dylan and then eat and play with Cannon for a bit! Give Cannon a bath at 7! Feed him at 7:30 then read him a book and rock him to sleep!
8-11 pm while cannons asleep me and Dylan watch our shows we have together then I’ll go work out or go for a run. Paint furniture (hobby of mine is to distress furniture). Take the dogs out one last time. Take a shower and get ready for bed!”
-Mackenzie G.

“5.30- hubby goes to work and wakeup begins. Feed baby, the other 2 usually end up in bed with me, watch kids tv while trying to get a few more minutes sleep.
6.45-up, kids breakfast, feed baby again, kids dressed, shower, eat, baby sleeps again
8.30-school run to drop off miss7, back home to clean, do horrific amounts of washing, baby feed and sleep again, miss3 fed and entertained, sometimes coffee with friends, sometimes walk, sometimes visit family
1 ish- lunch, groceries, miss3 sleep sometimes, baby fed and play, any appointments etc
3pm- school run, after school activities, feed 3 kids, homework
5pm begin making tea, takes a while sometimes with 3 kids! Husband usually gets home
6pm baby sleep again! Family tea, baths, books, bed
7.30 wake baby, play, feed, watch tv
9pm tidy up kitchen and any other mess from my mini cyclones
10.30 bed

And I’m secretary of parents club and in another volunteer committee so add that in somewhere”
-Melanie V.

“5.30am hubby leaves for work. Owen awake and I bring him into bed to feed.
7 or 8 I get up and shower and dress – O is either still asleep or I put him back in his cradle with some toys, then I feed him again.
8-9 I have brekky and do washing/ cleaning etc while O usually chats to his grandma who has dementia (we live with my inlaws).
9.30 O has a 45 min sleep often in the car on our way to whatever we’re doing, another feed when he wakes up.
What we do next depends. Monday is groceries. Some days we go to a mum’s group, usually I go to a friend’s house or my mother’s place.
12pm another 45min sleep followed by a feed.
Once we’re back home again I’ll either pop him in his pram and walk the dogs for an hour or we’ll do this around 3.30pm after his next sleep/feed cycle
Hubby gets home 3pm. Play/ grizzle until bath at 5pm
Feed, read a book and snuggle until bedtime at 6pm
…we cook/ eat/ watch tv after O’s asleep and go to bed around 9/10pm
Usually wakes up for one feed around 2/3am.
I’m NOT looking forward to going back to full time work in November I love our chilled out days at the moment.”
-Andrea D.


….Are you tired yet????

Vertigo

Last night, I fell asleep at the keyboard during my first attempt to write this post.

A few weeks ago I went to the doctor with aches so bad I thought I had arthritis and was diagnosed, instead, with “being a mom”.

I really wish I was making this shit up.

Motherhood changes you. It broadens you in more ways than just physically. Yes, it gives you the superhuman ability to be fully functional on little to no restful sleep, but it also forces you to fine-tune skills and to create an identity for yourself that you never even knew you wanted.

Life as of late has been one big exercise in the art of balance. How much can I do while maintaining my sanity? Even if I can do it- how much of it do I actually want to do? I feel that my identity as a wife/mother is constantly at odds with my professional identity. If I am succeeding at one, I feel that I am failing at the other. Or, on some days, I just feel like I am failing miserably at them both. Yesterday was a particularly harrowing day for me in my journey to master the art of “balance.” I returned to work from a blissful week’s vacation with my family. Sunday evening, I was feeling at peace with my life. I was feeling successful and confident. Balance. Come Monday morning and I am shuffling through the chaos of having been away from my professional life for a week. I feel off-kilter. I feel unsettled. Unbalanced. I am frantically trying to make the professional “me” feel successful again, and before I know it, I’ve managed to throw the personal “me” off-kilter too. I’ve stayed over an hour late at work, I’ve only managed to collect nourishment for my baby twice all day, and I am literally 2 minutes away from missing the cut off time for picking up my son from daycare. I’m sure that I will be able to find my zen again after a weekend to recover, but its only Tuesday. Until then, my days will continue to be at odds with my nights. My life will be a constant see-saw of balancing the identity I want, and the identity that I must have.

Is there a way for me to successfully balance the two? I don’t know. But since I don’t have any other options right now, I have to figure out how to calibrate, or I will soon find myself so uneven that I will be living my life in circles. And it’s hard to focus on the important things when you’re spinning.