Plastic-Free July

Although I did have a few new year’s resolutions for 2019, this year I mostly focused on a list of monthly challenges for myself. They felt like mini goals to keep things fresh and let me try more of the things I’ve been interested in. Was this a good idea? No, probably not.
Self-care January was pretty awesome. It was a great way to finish up my maternity leave and force me to focus on me. Highly recommend.
Snail mail February felt a bit overwhelming at times but I wrote around 14 letters, several of which resulted in return mail- a win!
Minimalism March was mainly weekends of purging and tidying which was very cathartic. I need more of this in my life!
April is where things started to go downhill. Originally slotted as focusing on yoga, I changed it to No Expectations April. Even with utilizing YouTube, creating a daily yoga practice felt unrealistic. Do I want one? Sure. But at the end of March was when I felt like my insides were starting to crumble. Living a no sleep, new baby life alongside a full-time job and an ever growing realization that I had developed postpartum depression meant I felt like a shell of a human being. I wasn’t sure what the expectations were but I knew I was holding myself to a high standard and I wasn’t living up to it. Thus, No Expectations April. May and June followed in loosey goosey suit.
I did however take a stab at Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July is an actual thing (Instagram handle, hashtag and all) which made it much more fun and motivating to do. Since this was my first year doing it I had pretty low expectations. I wanted to use the opportunity to say no to plastic where I could, identify where I was unnecessarily dependent on plastic and see where we could improve. I didn’t ask my family to make any adjustments although I did make it clear what I was doing and I did make some changes in our grocery shopping.

Saying No:
With a few exceptions, I was able to say no to all single use plastic. Several times at work I used a piece of plastic cutlery without thinking about it although mostly I’ve been reusing them to make them not-so-single use. I’ve never been good about remembering my travel mug but I made a special effort to keep it with me so I wouldn’t have a need for disposable coffee cups and their plastic lids.

Room for Improvement:
Groceries are tough y’all. Since I work 40+ hours a week and have two children in diapers, I have limited opportunities to shop around in multiple stores. For the most part, I need to be able to go to my local grocer and get what I need but my local store does not have a bulk section.

I made a special effort to go to Whole Foods and the farmers markets but neither provided as many plastic free options as I might of thought. Our local Whole Foods is small with a limited bulk section and I realized many of the items I was buying from farmers were still wrapped in plastic such as meat or cheese. Even berries and cherry tomatoes were coming in plastic containers there. Oy.

My family did not directly complain but I did cut out cereal, chips and crackers from our grocery lists since they all come in plastic bags. It made for shitty snacking, so I welcome ideas here.

Also, on my to do list is to create and utilize plastic free alternatives for eating out. We’re doing great on carrying:

  • Reusable water bottles
  • Reusable Ziploc bags- we recently upped our game with some Stasher bags!
  • Reusable fork and spoon for kiddos
  • Reusable pouches for pureed food

IMG_7800 (1)

But we need to include:

  • Straws for adults and kids
  • Cutlery for adults
  • Back up travel mug for those who can’t keep theirs clean (I don’t want to name names but… it’s both of us)
  • Cloth napkins to take plastic free to zero waste
  • To-go containers

Plastic Free July was not actually free of plastic but it was reduced and a good exercise. We ended the month by signing up for a compost pick up service which I’m pumped about! You can bring your compost to the county for free but that’s unrealistic for me right now so I’m willing to pay for convenience.

The unintended upside of this challenge is that all my favorite unhealthy snacks are wrapped in plastic wrappers. No more mid-afternoon candy bars!

Advertisements

Breastfeeding: When the Journey’s Over

When my sister had her first child, over 14 years ago, I was shocked watching her use her breast pump. What a loud horrifying torture device. At 19 I was the stereotypical blend of naive and opinionated and told everyone I would never breastfeed. Fast forward 10 years later and nothing could have talked me out of it.

In fairness, no one was trying to talk me out of it. While many people asked me if I was planning to breastfeed, I can’t imagine what the response would have been if I had said no. The undeniable message I received from every direction was “breast is best”. I went to a breastfeeding class. I bought a supply of nursing bras and nursing tops and dresses. I ordered my breast pump. Although I was apprehensive, I wanted to give my baby the very best and generally speaking, for me, that means things natural. No man-made formula!

PCBP-kat-1

Photo credit: Tula Q Photography

I’d like to say I wanted to breastfeed because I wanted to feed my baby with my own body. That I wanted to connect with him in this particular, physical way. That I wanted this specific experience, but I don’t think I ever thought that. That wasn’t my motivation. I wanted to be natural, environmental and cheap. I wanted to dive in head first to this new mama thing.

As if by not breastfeeding I would be less of a mom or miss out on some key experience.

What if I was so busy worrying about breastfeeding that I was missing out on just enjoying my baby?

I don’t regret breastfeeding. Breastfeeding taught me a lot of patience and resilience. I got to have the beautiful experience of feeding an infant with my old body, of providing life, sustenance, for both my boys which is pretty incredible. I’m lucky to have had the ability to breastfeed at all.

That moment that the baby latches for the first time is such a victory. It’s this incredible feeling of power, but it’s also coupled with incredible pain. Actual toe-curling pain. Fun fact: your uterus contracts when you nurse. This is a good thing for your body but it fucking hurts. As expected, your nipples also hurt. All of this goes away eventually. The toe-curling stops and if you are getting a good latch, your nipples will be okay as well. The feeling of power also fades, at least it did for me.

I never felt as though it was a choice. If you have the ability to breastfeed, you do, right? Even if it’s hard (yep), even if it hurts (yep), even if it means your spouse can’t help you feed the baby (yep). It’s a time in my life that I can really pinpoint the effects of media/social media and how it influenced my decisions. Even the second time around, I still felt an internal pressure to breastfeed as long as possible. I didn’t feel able to factor myself into the decision- my comfort, my needs, my stress level.

Breastfeeding is incredibly cool, but mom’s needs, wants and mental health should be a top priority instead of the last consideration. This is hard in parenting when you are so very needed, needed for the every day survival of your children. But what about you?

When people ask if I nursed Haines, my auto-response is “Yes, but I quit around 8 months.” It’s a negative story. It’s about failure. It’s about how I didn’t make it to a year, the ultimate nursing goal. But that’s wrong. Haines and I nursed for 8 months. Austin and I nursed for almost 9 months. We stopped nursing when it wasn’t what I wanted anymore and our relationship is just that, a relationship, a two- way street. When Haines and I quit nursing, it was a rushed stressful decision that resulted in days of emotional turmoil. Starting him on formula felt like a failure.  But the last time Austin latched, I knew the decision had been made. I felt done. I texted my mom friends for support and asked Tyler to bring some ice cream home.

IMG_7798

Will I miss that little flutter suck of a baby nursing himself to sleep? Sure, but my baby’s growing up and I miss my body more. I miss myself.

The Magic of Siblings

I’m sure no one is surprised my blogging has dropped off since we became a family of four. Or even more so since I went back to work. Blogging was once something I really enjoyed and thought a lot about. On the way to work or in the shower, I would mull over things I wanted to share. The things in my life that were taking over, small or large. I wanted to share about sleepless nights, about introducing solids, about the way your identity totally changes becoming a parent.

Now, on rare occasions, I think, “Didn’t you used to have a blog?”

Austin hit seven months recently and now typically sleeps through the night. We are on the verge of a dependable routine (yes, I know I just jinxed it). He has started to eat food with varying levels of success. Haines seemed to love everything that came his way while Austin acts as though I’m feeding him a lemon. Perhaps he will be our picky child. We still call Austin “baby brother” more often than not and Haines is definitely increasingly interested in his new friend. He vacillates between trying to keep every toy away from his brother or singing him songs and giving him kisses.

IMG_7622

Chokehold action

Having two kids has made my mind a chaotic mess. I wish I could say the fog has lifted but I still very much feel wrapped up in the daily grind of survival. Today Tyler and I took turns eating dinner while the other walked Austin around. During Tyler’s turn to eat, I took Austin outside and thought, “Tonight is a survival night.” Survival days/nights are when you remove all expectations and just make it through. It was a perfectly fine evening with many adorable moments but it was also an evening where we just needed for everyone to eat, everyone to take a bathe and everyone to go to bed. And so they did.

This will sound stupid so bear with me- having a second child is a lot of work. I’m not sure I’d recommend it. As a new parent you think one child is difficult (because it is) and then you have a second. Holy cow. But you already know how to parent, which is helpful, and most importantly you know that this too shall pass. You become resilient. And you learn that multiple kids is crazy but siblings is beautiful.

IMG_7623

My heart explodes on a daily basis watching the boys interact. Austin has always looked at Haines with total love and awe, as I’m sure he’ll do for quite some time, but now Haines is developing his own feelings for Austin. He’s interested in what he’s doing. He wants to be a part of his day. I know not all siblings become best friends and to hope for such may be naive, but I can’t help but feel I’m watching two people fall in love. It is not always kind or sweet. It is often selfish. It is always real. It is authentic. It feels like the beginning of everything. Siblings, I’d highly recommend.

IMG_7624

The Birthday Question

Recently I was asked “a birthday question” of “What have you learned this year?”

What a fucking question.

What more could I have possibly learned this year? (Kidding, clearly I still have a long way to go.)

I have learned that I sell myself short. Sure, I knew this but I used to think of it as humility or sacrificing for the greater good. I realize now it keeps me from feeling like I deserve to ask for things- money, job title, support, friendship, time for myself. It’s funny how my children have been the ones who have taught me selflessness but also to advocate for myself. Tonight I kept one arm outstretched to block Haines from picking the blueberries out of my salad as the other arm spooned pureed carrots into Austin’s mouth.  Also, that moment pretty much sums up motherhood.

img_6968.jpg

I learned about boundaries. Boundaries are the key to relationships of any kind. It’s not something I ever understood the value of. They had a negative connotation. Shouldn’t our most meaningful relationships exist without boundaries? Anything goes! But boundaries are as simple as expecting honesty from your spouse/friend/parent or drawing a line between work and home. In parenting boundaries feel particularly few and far between but they can still exist if you choose them. It is not a bad thing to move a baby into their own room or to insist that a toddler maintains their bedtime simply so you can be alone for once. It is not bad to say, “Play by yourself for a few minutes” and mutter “…before I lose my shit.”

I have learned I am strong, resilient and patient- three words I would not have used previously to describe myself. Were these qualities there all along? Surely, they have not just sprung to life but whatever the case may be- I feel them now. This is as much due to being able to push through when things are hard as it is knowing when to call it quits.  

IMG_7417

I learned about the constantly evolving human. Even if we cannot change our bodies, our circumstances, our income, we can change our minds. We can change our outlook. We can change our perception. And that can change your whole life.

IMG_7119

I have so much more to learn and wonderful people to learn it with. Thank goodness. Here’s to 33.

IMG_7447

Postpartum Real Life

It’s hard to express how much I love my babies. The love is constantly evolving, growing deeper every day. It starts at this place deep in my chest that twists and wrenches tight when they cry. And when they smile, the warmth starts deep in my belly and blooms upward filling me.

But it’s also hard to express it, because it’s become increasingly clear to me that I have postpartum depression. People ask me how things are going, if the fog is starting to clear and I lie. Because we are still sleeping poorly at 5 months postpartum, my brain still feels broken and I have yet to regain control over my emotions.

I have two incredible children. Their voices fill my heart with joy. My husband is a supportive kind partner. I like my job. I do interesting, fulfilling work. Sometimes it is not enough. Sometimes it is more than enough.Logically, I know that I am lucky. In my best moments, I feel grateful and energetic. But so often I feel there is a wall blocking me from enjoying it.

IMG_7118

The wall effects the way I feel about Austin. It effects the way I feel about my home, my husband, myself. I hate that. I hate to admit it. I hate to think about it but there it is, all the same.

I am lucky to live in a time where women are sharing their stories, that struggling with a new baby is a common story that women are more honest about. Still I see picture perfect Instagram accounts, I see women getting through so much more than is on my plate and I think why can’t I do more?

Postpartum depression effects 1 in 8 women and yet we mostly hide it away, with little in the way of a safety net for new moms. Luckily when I described how I felt after my first pregnancy to my midwives, they recognized I had experienced it with Haines and shared with me that I would likely experience it again. So this time I’ve at least been able to recognize, this is not how I should be feeling. This time I’ve sought help. This time when I do things for myself, I try to recognize that it truly effects my mental health and isn’t just selfish.

I don’t write just to share. I write because I have so appreciated the women, friends and strangers alike, who share about their journey in motherhood raw and authentically. It has been enormously comforting to see the many paths of motherhood without the shine of glossy family photos.

I wish I had more words to describe this phase of life, but it’s too raw and too real. Too good and too hard. So I’ll just put this here for now.

IMG_7210

 

Self-Care January

I am a person of lists. And goals. I love lists of goals. Even lists of lists of goals. So when my friend @thenewchrissy declared that she would be doing monthly challenges for 2019, I jumped on board. We share a lot of interests and values but I modified her a few of her challenges to fit my needs.

white and blue mountain birthday pinterest graphic (1)

A lot of folks start the year with Dry January. It makes sense considering the overindulgence of the holidays but I wanted to start the year off on a different foot. With only a few weeks left in my maternity leave, I wanted to focus on just enjoying it and relaxing as much as possible before it was back to the grind. Thus Self-Care January.

Self-care on maternity leave (especially at the end of one without pay) is not spa days or days alone in self-reflection or girls weekends. It is a 30 minute bath at the end of the day with a magazine. It is going to the grocery store alone and walking the aisles very slowly. It is choosing not to fold the laundry and painting my toenails instead. It is getting outside everyday.

Having a reminder that I needed to make time for myself was really helpful as I faced going back to work. The prospect of going back to work has, in my experience, been worse than the actual return but it’s still painful.

It’s hard to be present even in the parts of my job that I enjoy (which is the majority to be fair) when I’m aware of all the things I’m missing at home. Is he smiling right now? Is he cooing? Is he thinking about rolling over? (Yes, yes and not yet.) I race home to divide my time between two amazing, demanding children. One who wants cuddles and to be nursed. Another who wants to read books or tell me things like “I ride in Dada’s truck” (it’s not fascinating but it’s still cute). On my first week back of work, Haines was sent home from daycare with a fever and I was ecstatic to spend the following day with him. With Austin safely tucked away at my mom’s, we watched a movie, took walks and played hard. I loved it.

IMG_6968

Still at the end of the day, I was ready for a moment of me. I went to bed at 8. Best self-care decision ever.

February’s challenge is Snail Mail which I’m really looking forward to. I used to be an excellent pen pal but now I’m incredibly inconsistent. This month is going to be an opportunity to get back into one of my favorite activities.

IMG_6954

Back to Work

This week, after twelve quick weeks, I returned to work. In America, my friends congratulate me on being eligible and able to take advantage of the full twelve week leave. The men I know all say, “Wow, that’s a long time.” My friends in other countries think it is ridiculous that twelve weeks is considered ample time to recover and return to work. As someone who hasn’t slept a full night in months, I’m inclined to agree.

img_6910

I know there are so many benefits to being working parent. I drink my caffeine hot and enjoy adult conversations on a daily basis. I use my brain and solve problems that make me feel accomplished, even if just for the workday. I have a career, a boss, a field that I enjoy. Oh and the biggest advantage- dual income!

But I will never stop feeling that I am missing it. Not just missing out but truly missing “it.” Missing the best parts of the day with my boys. Missing them grow before my eyes. Missing everything. Our time together is mostly sleepy breakfasts, wrestling in and out of pajamas, perilous dinners (Will he throw a tantrum because we dared offer him food?), nursing in the wee hours, and reading a quick bed time book to one while the other protests, ready to be rocked to sleep. It is not nothing but it is also not enough. Would anything be?

img_6889

Even though I like most things about my job and my life, going back to work also makes me feel like I am running back into a hamster wheel. Thirteen hours of each day will be spent at full speed. Up at 6 so we can all get dressed, get fed, get out the door. Work hard to leave the office by 5 to get home, to get everyone fed, dressed, in bed around 7 before sweet tiredness turns into angry tears. Clean up, prep for tomorrow, take a shower in the hopes that there will be a few quiet, relaxing moments before nursing the baby again and lights out at ten.

There is no perfect balance. No parent doesn’t wish to be home, long to be at work, can’t wait for the kids to go to bed, and joyfully wake them up. Our situation will find its normal but for a few days at least I am giving myself the space to feel all the feelings as they are.

img_6909

There is something extra sad about going back to work this time knowing we will not be doing this again. We’ve decided our family feels just right as a foursome so there will be no more pregnancies, no more newborns, no more back to works. All of which is the right choice for us but it is hard not to feel wistful about the end of this chapter.

img_6917