Love for the One I Love

I feel bad for fathers. Well, not usually. At this particular point in parenting when we are figuring everything out I often feel I am taking on the heavier load in childcare. I’ve told Tyler before that sometimes I resent him between 10pm and 7am when he’s snoozing away and I wake at every little baby noise. (I don’t know if it’s connected but he’s begun to be more aware at night. Ha! )Perhaps dad radar must be developed while mom radar turns on the moment the child enters the world and instead must be fine-tuned. Dear ears, please stop waking me up for his every little noise!

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I’ve heard recently men say they found the first months of fatherhood easier than expected. It hurt me to hear that. My hormones are all over the place which has put my emotions on a constant rollercoaster (because pregnancy hormones weren’t enough??). Although we just recently crossed into six-hour stretches of sleep with our baby, previously I hadn’t slept through the nights in months just due to how incredibly hard it is to get rest at a certain point in pregnancy. Also, six hours never feels like enough. During the day I am breastfeeding or pumping every two hours. If I naively think I can skip a pump I am engorged, leaking, and wildly uncomfortable. Plus there’s the stress of finding daycare and preparing to go back to work after my 12 weeks of leave. So, this is all easy for dads*? I recognize that some burdens are difficult to share, but in any context in which your partner is struggling you should find a way to support them. That’s what partners do. For example, I am typing this while I sip a chai latte at a coffee shop. I am all by my lonesome and plan to be here as long as I want. Thank you, baby daddy, for recognizing the importance of this and many other things.

*In the context of this blog I am referring to fathers involved with heterosexual relationships involving childbirth as that’s the family dynamic I’m involved in. 

Fathers do seem to miss out on one of the best parts of becoming a parent I’ve experienced thus far- community. I don’t see men reaching out the way women do to lend a hand or check in on their friends who are new parents (perhaps because life with newborns is so damn easy?!) The women in my life, childless or mothers, have reached out time and time again to bring me what I’ve needed most: company and an extra set of hands. Over the last month we’ve benefited from multiple meals a week from my coworkers easing our days and giving us extra time to enjoy with our newly expanded family. Every week I’ve gotten texts just touching base and saying hi, helping connect me back to the world. In the last few weeks I’ve had visitors from across the state, the country and even Canada.

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Wilmington friends loving on this little one. 

The fact that they would take time off work, rearrange their plans, and pay for plane tickets all to see us and our little one is so incredibly wonderful in itself. I hadn’t expected how incredibly special it would feel to watch my friends interact with Haines, but every cuddle and smile goes straight to my heart. Watching them show love for the one I love takes all my words away.

There have been times over the past  year that I have felt far away from my core support group but these are just a few of the friends who have worked to make the distance smaller. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

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Hiding under this blanket is a baby who hates the sun.

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So much love all the way from Texas. 

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College roomies out for a boat ride with a baby who is not sure what to think of us. 

 

Love Is In the Air

I haven’t abandoned the blog but I am still finding it hard to form complete sentences that others can comprehend. Taking Facebook off my phone has really helped but I think sleeping would improve things. One day! In the meantime, in the spirt of Valentine’s Day here are a few things that have warmed my heart as of late.

Activism in Wilmington, NC: At this time over 70 businesses have closed in solidarity with Latino and Hispanic communities in eastern North Carolina and across the U.S. There is a protest today in Hugh McRae park as an opportunity for individuals to show their own support. I long ago accepted that my views differed from the majority of residents in my state, but this is just the most recent reminder that I may be wrong and that everyone’s voice makes a difference. I’m not going to make it the protest so I’m doing what I can by supporting businesses that closed today. Here is an incomplete list (to be updated) if you are able to do the same.

Samara’s Village:  I recently read an article in Wilma magazine about this local non-profit who provides support in Brunswick County to teen parents. When I first found out I was pregnant I was overwhelmed. There was an incredible amount of information (often conflicting) about what to do to have a healthy pregnancy but little about how to get started with medical care and what decisions I needed to make. My first thoughts were how do teenage or immigrant women do this? How do they find the resources needed? I’ve been searching for an organization to volunteer and help those who decide to be parents (but that doesn’t exclude or judge those who terminate their pregnancies) and I’m hoping this is it. I’m working on my volunteer application today!

PunkyMoms.com: There is an abundance of mom blogs or websites out there but I’ve been on the hunt for one that resonated with me. I wanted something inclusive without being overly idealistic. A parenting version of A Practical Wedding. This is one I came across this week which I really like because it has awesome playlists. That’s just what the doctor ordered. Does anyone have any parenting blog/website recommendations?

Suggestions Needed– In times of turmoil, it’s art that makes sense of things. Art does more than just provide social, cultural and political commentary. It helps us see issues from a new perspective or gives comfort when we feel isolated or distraught by the current climate. It connects us to neighbors that we believed we had nothing in common with. What writers, musicians and/or artists do you look to for solace or guidance in times of political or personal upheaval? It’s time to expand my horizons.

Also, there’s this guy.

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We are incredibly lucky to have friends who visit from all corners of the world- even Canada!

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This is my view when carrying the babe on our walks. Couldn’t be sweeter!

 

Where is My Mind?

I’m totally losing it. I don’t think it’s shocking that a woman with a 7 week old baby would feel like her creativity is missing. But it’s been missing for a long time.

I first noticed it when I was pregnant. During the first trimester I was too tired to care that I hadn’t written anything and my craft supplies were collecting dust. In the second trimester I spent my extra energy canning. Three batches of tomato jam, one applesauce, one apple butter, one pasta sauce, strawberry syrup and strawberry jam later I found myself in the third trimester. There is no extra energy in the third trimester. Everything I had went to keeping my job and eating (I gained most of my weight then, which is not how it’s supposed to go!).

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Now I have a newborn. At 7 weeks we wake up at least twice a night and his preferred spot is in my arms. So no, I don’t have a lot of extra energy for writing blogs, writing letters, creative thinking, cooking fun meals or arts and crafts. And yet it feels so much more extreme than that. When I have a few moments to myself, I have no idea what to do. I have found myself just sitting on my couch staring off thinking, “What do I like to do?” “What do I need to do?” Tyler told me to get out of the house and take a break. I had no idea where to go.

Much of this can be contributed to my recent monumental life changes but I think it’s more than that. It’s not just Haines that’s blinding me, it’s the media. It’s the morning news, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s watching the Today show in the morning while I try to wake up and automatically reaching for my phone every time I’m sitting for a few minutes with nothing to do. Considering the number of times Haines eats a day, that’s a lot.

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Milk drunk baby

I want my brain back, but that means learning to do nothing again. To sit with my thoughts, even if nothing comes at first. To take walks without music or podcasts. Deleting Facebook from my phone. And for the time being make lists so I can remember what’s going on! I know Haines will be impeding the situation for quite a bit longer but maybe I help find my mind little by little.

In the meantime:

  • I’m reading The Sun when I need help staying awake in the middle of the night instead of looking at my phone.
  • I’ve deleted the Facebook app from my phone so I can’t easily access it.
  • I will be making an effort to get outside every day. (If anyone has any tips for hiking with infants, I see this in my future…)
  • I will sit and do nothing sometimes simply to let my mind move itself rather than have outside influence.

One thing at a time, y’all.

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Get outside!

6 Weeks Postpartum: We’re Going to Make it After All

(R.I.P. Mary Tyler Moore)

We’ve made it six weeks. Surprisingly the time has passed more slowly than I expected. I’ve been asked quite frequently how I’m doing, how motherhood is and so on but I have no idea how to respond. This is a strange new world and I’ve barely tapped the surface of it means to be a mother. How I’m doing rests entirely on how Haines is doing. If he eats well then I am happy. If he sleeps well then I am rested. If he cries and fusses then chances are I will cry and fuss. (Well, if he cries a lot. It’s not as though I cry every time his pacifier falls out.) It’s a very different existence when your demeanor rests entirely on how someone else is doing. I think in any other situation this would be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. In the world of newborns and perhaps parenting in general, it’s just normal.

In some ways I feel that I am also just starting out in the world, same as Haines. I have a new identity and new way of a life. Together we’re taking one step at a time.

Exercise

Haines has accidentally rolled over twice now (his arm was stuck underneath in a weird way that helped)! He’s lifting his head pretty regularly as well.

At my postpartum check up I had lost 27 of my 42 pregnancy pounds. 15 more to go! Hopefully I don’t have to lose all of those to get back into my jeans. I’m trying to walk every day. There’s a trail near my house that is a four mile loop and we do this regularly. I’m hoping to incorporate some other forms of exercise here shortly.

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Our first trip to Hugh McCrae Park

Sleeping

I am a champion sleeper but Haines is not. Typically he gets up twice a night which is pretty tolerable BUT he “talks” during the night. The snoring is fine. The occasional squeak is fine but all sorts of squeaking and other weird throat noises is not the easiest to tune out.

Nutrition

Haines is a champ eater. We’ve been incredibly lucky that breastfeeding, while not always fun, hasn’t been particularly difficult. He learned to latch quickly and I learned to help him quickly as well. Many of the women I know talk about breastfeeding as something they enjoyed particularly because no one else could do it. It gave them a special connection and an excuse to have their own time with the baby. I’m not all that crazy about being the only person who provides food to Haines. I love when Tyler or our of our parents gives Haines a bottle. Watching them get to have that time is incredibly special. Plus shouldering cluster feedings and eating in the middle of the night on my own isn’t sweet. It’s tiring. Of course these feelings may evolve as I go back to work and this becomes the majority of our short time together.

Many people told me I’d be insatiably hungry while breastfeeding but it’s not been as bad as while I was pregnant. I’m struggling to let go of my sweet tooth. Ice cream, cookies, candy, doughnuts… I can’t be stopped.

Sanity

Haines isn’t a particularly fussy baby, a fact that has directly contributed to my mental health. That being said, maternity leave is a strange alternate universe. One on the hand, I never think about work. I don’t miss it. I don’t have to convince myself to stop checking my email. It’s barely on my radar. BUT I miss structure. I’m a creature of habit. My day needs something to give it shape. If I’m not going to be drinking cocktails by the pool all day then I want to know that today is Monday or Tuesday or what have you (I don’t actually know what day it is).

In order to differentiate between the days I have tried my best to schedule something for every day. That has included inviting friends or coworkers for walks, having visitors, and exploring different parks or walking paths in town. Haines is only likely to be a good sport about our activity if he’s being pushed in a stroller. Some days this does the trick, others I feel totally without purpose. If my day has no purpose, what the heck am I supposed to do with it? Yes, cuddle and spend time with this sweet baby. And then what? Also, life with Haines is much easier inside the house than out and about but sticking close to home has a tendency to make me feel trapped after too long. The more I venture out the clearer my mind feels and the more myself I am.

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First attempt using Moby wrap. 

Survival Tips

Be prepared! My diaper backpack is kept fully equipped at all times. I try not to go anywhere without extra burp cloths, blankets, outfits, diapers, wipes and a pacifier. If we could get close to a feeding time and I might not want to breastfeed, I stick a bottle inside a wine freezer pack and take it along with us. I’m not great at being discreet while breastfeeding and I don’t always want to let everything all hang out.

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It looks like this except not nearly as pretty/fancy. 

Leave the house! If I can’t socialize every day then I still have to get out and about. Any place with a pathway to push the stroller is on the list to be explored. Once I get better at baby wearing all sorts of new areas will be open to us!

Talk it out. Tyler is really good at recognizing when I need a break but vocalizing the struggle is more helpful than just relying on his intuition.

Acceptance. Life with a newborn slows everything down. I have to accept the new pace and even relish it. This little guy makes it hard not to.

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Hear Our Voice: Standing Together

Yesterday thousands of women across the world gathered together and stood as one. Some marched for reproductive rights, some marched for equal pay, some for justice, environmental protections, education, LGBT rights, some in solidarity, some to just be heard. These are just a few. Many (most?) also marched against the new administration.

I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about the march. This may be as surprising to you as it was to me. I didn’t vote for Trump. You probably already guessed this. The number of concerns I have about him cannot be listed. I don’t need to because you already know them all. Even if you don’t agree, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard what concerns others have. But I am a person that is driven by hope. The anger and fear and negativity that is the obvious response to the election does not fire me up. I do not feel emboldened as so many of my friends do. I feel crushed under the weight of it.

Once I would have felt differently. I would written endless letters to newspapers and congressmen. I would have confronted strangers and annoyed friends. The same person who was once an outraged college freshman, flabbergasted that Bush had won a second term, is now much quieter. Is this the result being tired from pregnancy and a newborn? Is it related to having a partner who is more conservative than me? Or is it the unavoidable stream of negativity that is my Facebook feed, my NPR station, my morning news?

I haven’t been able to find hope in places in the external sources I’m used to. Instead I’ve had to pull away in order to see the good. This didn’t start with Trump’s presidential campaign, but long before. I can’t discuss a lot of national issues I should be familiar with for this reason.

When I first heard about the march, I was hesitant about unifying against the Trump administration. I don’t want to spend my time being against anything and anyone. Even if that’s how I feel, I want to work towards good. I want to build bridges. My extra energy, the energy I have after nursing and caring for a newborn, after my marriage, after myself, after work, after caring for the relationships that are important to me- that’s the energy I wants to spend working towards something.

 

The Women’s March gave me that. In a time where our country feels isolated, women across the globe in 55 different countries, stood up for us from New Zealand to Kenya to South Korea. Even Antartica rallied. In a time where our country is angry at Washington D.C., women flocked there with over 500,000 people in attendance. In a time where our country is not just divided but fractured/shattered/broken, marches were held in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

We need community. We need to remember why we love our friends and neighbors. That we loved them between election years and why. We need to work together to build up those that need it- those that haven’t been served well enough in the past, those that we fear will be mistreated or forgotten in the next four years, those that need us and we need them.

OUR MISSION

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

HEAR OUR VOICE.  -womensmarch.com

Yesterday I rallied with men, women and children in Wilmington, NC. I felt proud, inspired and encouraged to be with them and to hear their voices. It was the reminder I needed that change is attainable and we can all make a difference.

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Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

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My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

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Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

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Photo credit: Zachary Sprague

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postpartum Reality Check

Despite all the lovely media out there that pregnancy is a beautiful, magical time it is also very difficult for some. Everyone’s pregnancy is different and that’s hard to understand before you’ve gone through your own. The same applies for the birth story. Every mother will have a very different experience.

For me the struggle was always emotional. For most of the pregnancy I just couldn’t get my feet underneath me. I struggled with the decision to have children, to questioning whether or not we’d be good parents, to how we’d handle the costs of a child. It was only in the third trimester that I started to feel confident about being parents, only to develop anxiety around childbirth.

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In those last few weeks the only I could feel better was to try to be ready. I continued prenatal yoga through 39 weeks. I forced Tyler to read The Birth Partner (he now agrees this was a good decision). I called everyone I knew for hospital bag and postpartum care tips. The consensus? You don’t need half of what you bring.

Hospital Prep Reality Check- No matter what you pack, you won’t use most of it. 

Hospital Bag*:

  • Bath robe- this is all I wore in the hospital. I rarely stood except to go to the bathroom so what more do you need?
  • Toiletries- I feared my first shower. I didn’t want to stand or put hot water anywhere near my recently traumatized parts. Do not fear the shower.It will be your best shower ever.
  • Warm socks/slippers
  • Hairbrush/hair ties
  • Comfy clothes to come home in
  • 1-2 baby outfits- Haines was chilly in the hospital and the nurses wanted him dressed to help warm him up.

*I only delivered and recovered at the hospital. I didn’t labor there. Your needs may be different.

The best way to prepare to leave the hospital is to take everything. Don’t leave without all the:

  • Mesh underwear
  • Pads
  • Witch hazel pads
  • Cold packs
  • Dermoplast

At-home Care:

  • More witch hazel pads- I purchased Tuck’s pads rather than make my own but there’s a lot of information out there to DIY it
  • Always Flex Foam pads– super thin but very absorbent
  • Dermoplast
  • Stool softener- just do it
  • Motrin & Tylenol
  • A supply of the world’s largest, comfiest granny panties
  • Extra sets of hands- get help!

Hospital Reality Check- There is no recovering in Recovery.

Be aware that it is commonplace these days to keep the baby in the room with mom at all times. At our hospital Haines only left once for an hour. It felt good to be able to see him but… I also only slept about 90 minutes during our hospital stay which was about 36 hours long. My mom hearing had turned on into hyperdrive and every wiggle he made woke me up. I also just wanted to see him. It was so hard to believe he was really here. I needed to see him just to confirm his existence. This need meant I missed out on essential sleep but I couldn’t have done it differently.

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At-Home Reality Check- You thought you were hormonal during pregnancy? You know nothing. 

The first two weeks home I cried because I was tired. I cried because Haines had trouble breastfeeding and I didn’t know how to help him. I cried because my heart was full and everything felt perfect. I cried at sappy songs and terrible commercials. Now we’re almost 4 weeks in with 2 weeks of a healthy baby and a 2 week hospital stay under our belts. We still don’t have any since of normalcy or routine, but we’re making it all the same.

At-Home Reality  Check- Even though you’re more tired than you’ve ever been, you’ve got this. At least you can have a damn beer again.

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